Nepal earthquake: my experience

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I was in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit on April 25. I got out and am safe and well, but the people on the ground are not so lucky. Please donate to Nepal Ireland Society (or another charity) to help.

I was in Kathmandu when the earthquake hit on Saturday, April 25. Prior to that I was trekking in the Himalaya mountains for 3 weeks and I was supposed to fly home that evening.

The earthquake hit at noon. We were in the lobby of a hotel waiting for a friend who was in a room upstairs, and we were about to head to Durbar Square – the UNESCO World heritage site with 2000-year-old temples which were destroyed by the quake.

We were chatting away when the ceiling started shaking. It seemed as if someone was throwing a big party upstairs, but then the shaking became too much – our chairs, the coffee table, the walls, everything was in motion. I couldn’t understand what was going on, but Ian Taylor, our guide, grasped at once it was an earthquake and urged us to get out of the building.

We got up and ran, but it wasn’t easy as the ground was moving so much. At one point I nearly fell down: it was like trying to run in a plane that’s going through a rough patch of turbulence. When we made it out into the courtyard potted flowers were falling and pots breaking around us, the walls of the hotel were literally swaying like the walls of a kid’s bouncy castle and the earth kept moving – it was very scary. We finally stopped at some distance from the 5-storey hotel, with our backs against a low wall. We watched for falling debris, ready to run. Gladly none fell and after about a minute or two it was over.

I then saw clouds of dust coming down the street – some buildings had collapsed nearby. People were running towards open spots, away from tall buildings, women were crying hysterically. The friend we’d been waiting for rushed down the stairs of the hotel, unharmed. The hotel seemed in good shape and there wasn’t a single crack on the walls (although the rooms were in a mess, with furniture thrown all over the place).

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But a lot of the other – older and poorer built – buildings were completely destroyed, burying people under the rubble.

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The first aftershock hit about 15 minutes after the earthquake. The ground started moving again and everyone expected the worst, but it was over in less than a minute. Tremors continued for the next 48 hours, initially they came every hour or so. Everyone was afraid, worried that an even bigger earthquake would hit. There was no running water, no electricity and hardly any communications. There were no emergency services to be seen anywhere. We were in the dark, afraid to leave the relatively safe area near the hotel. That day we got some food at a nearby restaurant – thanks to our local guide who knew the owners, and we got a car to the airport, but the airport was closed with all flights cancelled, so we had to go back.

We camped outside the hotel in some tents. Tremors continued all night and we got very little sleep, being woken up every hour or so by the ground moving, afraid that an even worse earthquake was going to hit.

The airport was open the next day, but it was absolutely packed with tourists trying to get out of the country and we could not leave again. We were only able to get a ticket on the second day after the earthquake. A lot of passengers clapped their hands when the plane took off, relieved to be away from the disaster zone.

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My thoughts were and still are with the people who stayed behind. Our Nepali guides were super-nice to us and sadly we still don’t know if all of them and their families are OK as some live in very remote areas. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and life wasn’t easy before the earthquake. It is a hundred times more difficult now for the people who lost their homes and livelihoods in this catastrophic event.

When I was leaving Kathmandu hundreds of thousands of people were sleeping in the open – some because their houses were destroyed, others because they were too afraid to go back to their dwellings. Some Nepalis were sleeping on carpets spread out on busy roads. There were reports of looting and people on the ground said they would get mobbed when they’d bring food and water to these makeshift refugee camps full of children and the elderly.

If you would like to help the people of Nepal I would suggest sending your money to someone on the ground instead of giving it to the bigger charities. There have been reports of foreign aid being stopped by Nepali officials, so donating to someone on the ground seems like the fastest and best way of helping these poor people at the moment.

Nepal Ireland Society is one such organisation. They have people in Kathmandu and your donation will be of real help to the fantastic people of Nepal who are suffering because of this disaster.

You can easily find them on Facebook (Nepal Earthquake Relief) and here is the link you can use to donate:

www.idonate.ie/nepalrelieffund

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