From the field: Panic and confusion as second quake hits Nepal
A thousand and one thoughts raced through my mind when the quake struck today. There were four of us in a 4x4, travelling up the increasingly rocky road to Bothasipa, a village up in the hills of Sindhupalchowk, one of the districts most affected by the 7.8-magnitude quake that flattened parts of Nepal a couple of weeks ago.
We were tailing our convoy of relief items, heading up to do a distribution of tarpaulins and rope for shelter, as well as food. Driving through Kavre and Sindhupalchowk, we were flanked either side by scenes of absolute devastation with homes reduced to piles of rubble and splintered timber.
As the climb began, the trucks started spluttering and struggling with the terrain, but they pushed through and we were getting pretty close to our destination, way up in the hills, when it happened.
At first I thought the engine was conking out. Then the car started to bounce up and down. Normally the aftershocks this past week have lasted for only a moment, but this one was different. It didn’t stop. Several seconds passed and the ground was still shaking. We got out of the car (the road was open and there was no danger) and started to piece together in our minds what was going on.
Looking to Twitter for information
All around I could hear people from the communities around us shouting. We knew the shake was big, but we had no idea how big. Twitter was still working for some reason so I tried to get a few tweets out about what had happened and to get word out that I was safe. I knew my family, friends and colleagues would be wondering.
Then I started to see the numbers in some of the tweets: 7.1, 7.2, 7.4. This was no normal aftershock, if it was an aftershock at all. The phones weren’t really working so I started to gather information through Twitter about what had happened, how my colleagues were doing, what the situation was. Even as I write this, I’m still not 100 percent sure what’s gone on and how badly communities have been affected.
We will have to camp out in Bothasipa tonight. I’ve been hanging out with some of the villagers here, chatting with them, and they are shaken. There have been a fair few rumbles this afternoon and every time one happens, people panic, jump up, run for open ground. These are people who have already lost their homes and livelihoods. They’re wondering when it’s going to end.
Concerns mounting for the rainy season
The school up here was already completely trashed. Kids have nowhere to go during the day. They told me they’d had nothing to eat except berries they manage to forage from the forest. At least now there’s more food and a few more tarps around so they can shelter from this unpredictable weather. At the moment it’s blazing hot, but it has been raining a lot and monsoon season is on its way.
Information is trickling in. I’ve been in touch with other colleagues elsewhere in the district and back in Kathmandu through SMS, and I eventually managed to get a Facebook post up ("SAFE") and to Whatsapp my wife and ping my little brother.
My colleagues have been doing an amazing job up here and I’m ecstatic to hear that they are all safe and accounted for. They’re obviously pretty damn scared themselves. They’ve lived through this and been directly affected. But there are people in greater need and they are our focus at this time.
The destruction here is immense and it really pains me when I see how big the funding gaps are for the aid response to what’s happened. The people here are homeless, not hopeless, but fixing this is going to take years and billions of dollars.
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