A gathering of mostly Nepalese immigrants knelt in prayer and lit candles Sunday night at the Asamai Hindu Temple in Hicksville to show support and solidarity for the victims of the deadly Nepal earthquake.
They stood 50 strong at an altar of Hindu gods in the temple, chanting prayers for those who lost their lives or their homes in the 7.8 temblor. Many wore T-shirts and held signs that read, "Pray for Nepal."
Priest Pipalmani Sigdel urged those gathered to pray for the victims in the Himalayan nation, about the size of Arkansas, with nearly 31 million people and wedged between India and Tibet.
"We sing to God to protect them and help them survive," Sigdel said. "Lighting the candles is special. It gives brightness. That was a black, sad day and the candles give . . . peace and prosperity and a bright future for the country."
Durgesh Karki, president of the Long Island Nepalese Society, said several local families were affected by the earthquake.
Karki said his family in eastern Nepal is safe. The primary damage happened closer to the nation's capital in Kathmandu.
"It's a very, very big disaster in my life," Karki said before the vigil. "I've never seen it before. It's sadness and disaster. So many people died and so many people lost their homes."
Long Island has a Nepalese community of about 175, according to U.S. census figures.
Shobha Pokharel Shrestha, 42, of Hicksville, grew up in Kathmandu, where her 78-year-old father still lives. She confirmed he is safe but has yet to speak with him on the phone.
Shrestha sobbed and clutched hands with friends as she prayed at the vigil.
"I'm just thinking of the Nepali people. They've already suffered enough," Shrestha said. "All of Nepal is crying. They're a poor country and they don't get what they need. I don't want them to suffer."
Others said their families were safe but homeless with no food, water or electricity.
Ravi Dahal, 27, of East Meadow said his family in Nepal is living on the street.
"I'm praying to God for no more devastation in Nepal and everyone's soul to rest in peace," Dahal said. "They're still terrified to go inside. It's scary and still very emotional. . . . I feel like crying sometimes."