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Nepal: Daughter gives DeBordieu couple first hand account of quake

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

A powerful earthquake in Nepal might have been just another international news blurb for most people, but it hit close to home for Paul and Susan Huray of DeBordieu Colony.

Their daughter Stephanie and son-in law Bijaya Sainju of Baluwatar, Nepal, survived the earthquake that killed 4,800 and injured 9,200 in the Himalayan nation Saturday. More than 8 million people are affected by the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal in 80 years.

Susan Huray said she got a posting from Facebook Nepal Earthquake emergency status on Sunday that the Sainjus were safe and sleeping outside with neighbors for fear that aftershocks would bring down their house after seeing the walls of the prime minister’s residence collapse. Susan Huray said Nepal is a “fourth-world country” that is ill prepared to deal with the effects of a massive earthquake. “The monsoons are about to begin, and without portable toilets there will be disease,” she said.

The Sainjus run an organization called Concern for Children and Environment in Nepal to stop child labor abuses in the rug industry. “A lot of families indenture children to rug manufacturers for a small amount of money,” Susan Huray said. “Kids with nimble fingers sit at looms all day, and at night they have to find a doorway to sleep and go through garbage to find food. Our son-in-law started this agency and fought the government to get child labor laws changed. They try and get these kids back in school, give them antibiotics, clean them up and feed them before they eventually go back to their families. Rugs from Nepal now carry a sticker on the back saying they are made without child labor. Merchants still cheat, still use children. It’s not as open as it used to be.”

The Sainjus have begun working on other problems, she said, concentrating on child labor in brick kilns.

Stephanie Sainju told her parents in a Facebook post that a neighbor’s water tank fell on their roof but missed their solar panels and caused minimal damage. After a few tremor-free days, they might try sleeping under a protective mattress on the ground floor of their house. They plan to offer two of the village huts on their property to homeless families who want to live there and start farming. “Unfortunately physical things will eventually get back to normal, but the psychological stress and damage has altered all of our ways of living forever,” she said. “Every noise and temperature change sends us all running to open spaces — and there aren’t many — shaking with fear.”

Paul Huray grew up in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where his father worked on the Manhattan Project. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics in 1964 and a Ph.D in physics in 1968 at the University of Tennessee. As an assistant professor of physics, he urged the University of Tennessee to pursue a partnership with Martin Marietta to manage the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Through the process of setting up agreements with potential bidders, Huray met a representative from Rockwell Scientific who went to work for President Ronald Reagan. Because he had experience with supercomputing, Huray was invited to work at the Federal Coordinating Council on Science Engineering and Technology Committee on computer research applications. The committee wanted to streamline existing federal agency networks that didn’t typically “talk” to each other. They planned to name the project the Interagency Network, but ultimately the name was shortened to “the Internet.”

In 1988, after spending three years as senior policy analyst for the White House, Huray was invited to become senior vice president for research at the University of South Carolina and after a stint as vice provost and interim department chairman, went back to teaching electrical engineering.

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