Nepal quake rebuilding to take years, new chief says

National Reconstruction Authority chief Sushil Gyewali said rebuilding homes for people would take two to three years.
PHOTO: Reuters

KATHMANDU - Tens of thousands of Nepalis left homeless after April's massive earthquake will have to spend years living in temporary shelters, the country's reconstruction chief has told AFP.

Sushil Gyewali said it would take another two to three years to rebuild houses damaged or destroyed in the April 25 earthquake, which killed nearly 9,000 people.

"Certain people might be in a situation to rebuild their houses before monsoon season but we cannot expect that all the houses will be reconstructed... it will take around two to three years (more)", said Gyewali, head of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

He said in an interview late Wednesday that the first house will be inaugurated in March.

Tens of thousands of quake survivors are still living in flimsy tents in subzero temperatures nearly nine months after the 7.8-magnitude quake, which destroyed more than half a million homes in the Himalayan country.

A US$4.1 billion (S$6 billion) reconstruction fund was set up in June, but work on rebuilding was delayed by lawmakers' failure to pass a bill conferring legal status on the NRA.

Gyewali will oversee the fund and has vowed swift action to help quake victims, who have received little aid beyond an initial US$150-per-household government payout.

"Certainly (reconstruction)... has been delayed - it is true and everyone knows it. But we have to start immediately and we have to make up the time," he said.

Over the next few weeks, some 1,500 engineers and 200 surveyors will fan out across quake-devastated villages and towns to assess damage and draw up lists of victims before the NRA can disburse aid worth US$2,000 per household.

The damage assessment, which will conclude by the first anniversary of the quake, will go hand in hand with rebuilding and grant distribution, Gyewali said.

The government vowed in June to set up the NRA to oversee rebuilding and ensure that all aid went to victims, as part of its bid to attract funding from sceptical foreign donors.

But progress on rebuilding was held up by political wrangling between the Nepal's ruling party and the opposition over leadership of the NRA.