Nepal earthquake: A perilous journey
The journey to Kathmandu is proving perilous, and the scenes apocalyptic. Every available corner of open space is full of people, fearful of going indoors. Everyone just hopes that the worst is now over.
Each time we cross a bridge, our car has to wait until it's completely clear, then pass at high speed. No one can be certain that the structures will hold after being shaken so violently twice in two days.
We’re making the journey from eastern Nepal, where we were when the quake struck, to Kathmandu. Along with colleagues, I was on a scheduled visit to see Plan International’s work with girls in Nepal.
The first thing we felt yesterday lunchtime as we sat in a meeting on a roof terrace near Biratnagar was a gentle tremor. Nepalis are used to that – but as the shaking grew more violent, our colleagues quickly advised that this was much bigger than they were used to.
With people running out of buildings screaming, and dogs barking like mad, we had no choice but to take shelter under the lintels of doors. The quake went on for about two minutes. In 30 years of development work, I’ve never experienced anything like it.
The building we were in was shaking strongly – much stronger and it would have collapsed. We were 500km from the epicentre.
Today we need to head into Kathmandu and towards the epicentre. Colleagues have children they need to see. And we need to be close to the epicentre to help manage our response.
The reports coming in from rural districts around the epicentre are alarming. Our staff are telling us that many, many buildings have collapsed. Homes, schools, hospitals. The hope is that since the earthquake struck on Saturday lunchtime, casualties will be minimised as fewer people would have been in public buildings. But the populations in these remote areas – including many Dalit communities - are amongst the poorest and most marginalised in Nepal.
Our immediate priority is to provide food, water and shelter. Plan International teams in Nepal have already mobilised blankets and tents. We’ve been operating in Nepal since 1978 and our local staff know the terrain well. We have a huge challenge ahead – Nepal is a difficult country to operate in – but I know we are equipped to respond as best we can.
During our long journey my thoughts have mainly been with children and their families in these areas. With all those homes destroyed, just think of how many children now have no where to go.
We know that children are the most vulnerable in disaster situations; they urgently need our support. In the coming days and weeks, counselling will be important too. The trauma of an earthquake is a difficult thing to recover from.
We’re now three hours outside of Kathmandu in our office in Hetauda. My colleagues here are working flat out to arrange supplies. I’m proud to work with these dedicated, professional people.
The road ahead is long – for us, but also for the people of this beautiful country. But the recovery starts today, and we will be supporting our Nepali colleagues all the way.
Plan International UK has launched an appeal to help those affected by the Nepal earthquake.
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