Contact: Thomas Hottman
Sanjog Bikram was on the phone with his parents, who live in Kathmandu, Nepal, just minutes before an earthquake devastated the capital city.
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Kathmandu, where Bikram grew up, on Saturday morning at 11:58 a.m. local time. In Klamath Falls, where Bikram now works as a technician in the clinical engineering department at Sky Lakes Medical Center, it was just after 11 p.m. Friday night.
"We were just catching up," Bikram said of his conversation with his parents.
After the quake, Bikram was unable to get in touch with his parents again until about 3 a.m., local time.
"Luckily all my family was safe," he said.
Bikram is also thankful that his elderly grandparents ended their visit to Nepal just two days before the earthquake hit, returning to their home in the United Kingdom.
The death toll in Nepal from the quake has reached about 5,000 people. Bikram feels lucky he was able to contact his family within a few hours of the quake — some of his friends have not yet been able to reach their families still, five days after the the disaster.
Bikram, who earned his bachelor's degree from Louisiana Tech University before starting at Sky Lakes, wishes he could return to his home country to volunteer after the devastation, but travel restrictions on his visa won't allow it. He's lived in the States since 2009, and last visited Nepal in 2011.
Right now, the best he can do is encourage everyone to donate to service organizations that are currently working in Nepal. Bikram encourages people to donate to international organizations, such as the Red Cross and UNICEF, rather than local organizations in the country.
"That is the best we can do," he said, adding that he's thankful to friends at Louisiana Tech and the University of California at Berkeley who have planned candlelight vigils and fundraisers.
It's hard to watch news coverage of the quake, Bikram said, because he recognizes all of the sites shown in Kathmandu.
"I recognize every single picture," he said.
Nepal is a poor country, and relies on tourism to help support the economy, Bikram explained. Many monuments and attractions were destroyed by the quake, he said.
"I really do not know how Nepal is going to catch up," Bikram said.
But Bikram mostly worries for the people in the country; it's terrifying to think that there could still be people trapped under rubble in the capital city. There are also remote villages outside Kathmandu that are difficult for rescuers to reach.
While his immediate family is safe, some relatives and friends have lost loved ones.
"It's been really hard trying to catch up with them," Bikram said. "I cannot even imagine how they're feeling right now."
How to donate
Sanjog Bikram, a technician in the clinical engineering department at Sky Lakes Medical Center originally from Kathmandu, Nepal, recommends making donations to the American Red Cross to support his home country after Saturday's devastating earthquake.
Donations made at redcross.org can be directed towards Nepal earthquake relief.