UA student in Nepal helps rebuilding efforts

Published: May. 15, 2015 at 3:33 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:17 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A structural engineering student from the University of Arizona is safe and doing well after a second powerful earthquake rocked Nepal while she was providing relief there.

Ulina Shakya spoke to Tucson News Now by Skype about her efforts to rebuild villages that were damaged or destroyed by two 7-magnitude earthquakes.

"It was so heartbreaking to see all the buildings collapsed," Shakya said.

Shakya wasted no time in traveling to her home country when she learned a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated entire villages in late April.

She didn't expect a second earthquake of near-equal strength would strike within weeks.

"The people who were inside the buildings just came so quickly and they were just shouting, you know? And everyone in the villages were so scared. Luckily, no one got hurt," Shakya said.

Shakya said many people refuse to stay indoors, instead opting to sleep in tents outside because of fears their homes will collapse.

That is where her training from the UA's Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department and her internship with the non governmental group, Build Change, play a pivotal part in her relief efforts.

"We are doing some building assessment, we are trying to find out what other local material we are using to make the houses," Shakya said.

Shakya is a third-year Ph.D. student who has been studying earthquake engineering through the prestigious Schlumberger Foundation scholarship.

Shakya's advisor, Dr. Robert Fleischman, associate professor at UA's Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department, said Shakya is well equipped to provide the best engineering expertise in Nepal.

"She's on this team because she knows the area, she knows the people, she knows the language. The fact that she's an earthquake engineer is the icing on the cake," Fleischman said.

Already, Shakya and her UA colleagues have raised funds to bring any small thing that could help.

"We distributed like rice, lentils, oil, to the people, we didn't have much funds to provide them their huge needs, like tents or stuff like that, but with whatever we can, we were supporting them with that," Shakya said.

She said she is grateful for the concerns for her safety and the support she has received from the Tucson community.

"I want to thank everyone who has been involved in showing up what is going on in Nepal and the people who are supporting us and helping us in any ways they can," Shakya said.

Shakya plans to stay in Nepal through the summer.

Watch her interview on KOLD News 13 at 4.

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