Archive for May, 2015

Grieving families say final goodbyes as Nepal ends mourning period

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 by

Thousands of people gathered across Nepal in the last day of a 13-day mourning period for the victims of the deadly earthquake. The death toll from the magnitude-7.8 quake has climbed to 8,413.

woman surveys the damage to her home by the Nepal earthquake

Hira Devi Gurungstands in front of her house demolished by the earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

Sunil Sharma

 

This is a guest blog by Sunil Sharma, a photojournalist with Xinhua News Agency in Nepal, who shares the story of a mourning family in Pangtang, a village in Sindhupalchok District in the Bagmati Zone of central Nepal. 

 

 

 

“Oh God, why did you ruin my family?” said Siddha Bahadur Gurung, who was taking part in mourning rituals of his mother and mother-in-law.

Man mourning family deaths in Nepal following the earthquake

Siddha Bahadur Gurung observes mourning rituals for his dead mother and mother-in-law during earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

Siddha was totally helpless as his house collapsed. Many villagers in his district were left homeless due to the catastrophic earthquake on 25 April.

“My mother and mother-in-law died in front of me; I could not do anything,” he said.

Siddha lived with his wife, two children, sister and mother, while his mother-in-law lived in another house nearby. They were all were together, chatting during lunch time, when the quake hit and turned his house to rubble.

“My mother fell down near this wall”, he said, showing me the spot on the rubble near a window, “and here my mother-in-law was near the ladder trying to hold my children but she couldn’t.

man outside his destroyed home in Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal following the earthquake

Siddha Bahadur Gurung shows his damaged house where his mother and mother-in-law were buried during the earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

“I was unconscious until my uncle pulled me out from the rubble after an hour. When I gained consciousness, I started to look for my family. We started to search for them together with my uncle.”

Siddha’s uncle, Hari was busy in his field when the earthquake struck.

man recounts his nepal earthquake experience

Hari Adhikari, Siddha’s uncle (centre) recounts the rescue of his sisters’s family from the damaged house at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

“Suddenly, I heard a bursting sound and felt the ground shaking,” he said. “Everything was shaking, even the hills. I ran towards my house and saw all the three houses along with Siddha’s lying flat on the ground. I called for help and pulled the family members from the rubble, Unfortunately, I couldn’t save Siddha’s mother and mother-in-law.”

Siddha’s sister Hiradevi and wife Sangita are both injured. His children were injured too, more so psychologically. He is homeless now and staying in a temporary shelter provided by his neighbours. His animals (goat, chicken and ducks) are all buried under the rubble.

Siddha’s elder sister Mundrika has also lost her home and is mourning the death of her husband.

woman mourning loss of her home and husband in Nepal

Mundrika Gurung, Siddha’s elder sister, who lost her house during the earthquake cries for relief at Pangtang village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

His injured wife is being treated in a hospital in Kathmandu, but he has to stay with his remaining family, because his father is also too old to look after them.

family assessing the damage of Nepal earthquake on their home

Siddha and his sisters are on their damaged house where his mother and mother-in-law were buried during the earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

Many other families lost their sons and fathers, mothers and daughters in the remote village of Pangtang of Sindhupalchowk district in this disastrous earthquake, where support from the government has not yet reached with enough relief operations.

Such is the destiny of a poor village of Nepal.

When generosity is the only attribute!

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 by

In the aftermath of Nepal’s mega earthquake and amidst incessant aftershocks, the Practical Action team here in Nepal are working hard to offer whatever in personal and professional capacities they can. All of us – as many as 82 professionals have all been affected in some way by the disaster’s destruction and have been doing all we can in such unprecedented nearly worst case scenario.

6 May 2015At this time everybody’s goal is same but we are doing different things in different settings. After all, in a situation where whole state is screaming for rescue and relief, we are as if indifferent by virtue of our ability to bounce back from sorrows and trauma. We are working hard to reach the needy victims, form alliances with other organisations, sympathise and empathise with people’s feelings and contribute physically, mentally and financially.

Our leadership so much engrossed in the emergency situation here, reaching out to people in the fullest capacity, and reminding me of my days in a human rights organisation when human rights violations and ethnic violence were rampant and urgent response was a high priority. To my surprise when everyone around me is so generous how can I seat just ideal? My seniors were coordinating resources and facilitating various channels to reach out to community. Our colleagues Buddhi Kumal is deployed in the forefront. My colleagues including Swarnima, Prabin G, Sachin and Milan were around ground zero zone for offering relief and rescue. Our DRR team is working at full throttle at ground level whilst all of us are being involved in various works that complement the undertakings of our experts.

It is said that giving is always satisfying but when you have limited things to offer, generosity counts highly. The organisation itself has been urging all its teammates, donors and partners to express solidarity and to contribute in whatever capacity, so that needy people get sigh of relief and respite. Further to this, there are various stories of contribution in personal and professional capacities by our colleagues, domestic and universal coordination and appeals from relevant desk is all time high. This first-hand experience of generosity not only inspires but is catalytic in making the team more motivated to offer support and help. To be honest I was not as generous as I am right now.

When leaders who better understand the organisation’s capacity and its strategic relevance are working 24/7, there is no need of other motivation and incentive. The sense of encouragement, the smell of generosity and cooperation is everywhere regardless of aims and themes. Standing tall as a rescue and relief providing entity needs much resource and expertise and our priority areas of reconstruction, rebuilding and resilience are waiting for more resources to pour in. However, we may be in short supply of resources but we are not in short supply of vision, value and vigour. The generosity with our sleeves rolled up for the relief work has made us a frontline organisation that focuses on immediate technological needs in regard to shelter, water supply and energy.

I urge you all to be a part of our relief work. Please show your generosity by supporting our work.

How many more deaths will it take before Disaster Risk Reduction is adequately financed?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 by

The extent of the horrific devastation in Nepal caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake is being increasingly realised. At least 7,566 have died[1], and it is reported that over 8 million have been affected. Further, the long term impacts on communities’ livelihoods, children’s education, and health and psychological wellbeing are unimaginable.  Earthquakes are an everyday risk in the region, as are floods, landslides and many other hazards. Scientists have warned of a ‘big one’ for decades and some have even predicted the exact epicentre location as that experienced this week[2]. It was never a case of if, but when.

Nepal EQ map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what was even more certain was that when it came, buildings would fall, people would die, and livelihoods would be lost. The losses in Nepal were not only caused by the earthquake; they were caused by bad development. The lack of provision of safe construction for a burgeoning population, the failure to separate housing from risk location, lax enforcement of building codes, and the widespread poverty restricting household’s ability to protect themselves. These are all lessons we must learn and implement in the future to avoid a similar catastrophe when the next earthquake strikes. Development must not ignore disaster risk reduction (DRR) this requires a shift from responding to disasters to managing risk.

Many groups are contributing to this learning and rebuilding process. The National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET) holds workshops in Nepal to build the capacities of members of the community, local governments, and NGOs to build more safely. Practical Action works with rural and urban communities across the country to create locally appropriate flood warning systems and in Pokhara has worked with local partners to explore a multi-hazard approach to risk reduction. Oxfam implements community based DRR approaches across the country, strengthening local capacities to prepare for crises.  All these agencies are working with the government to strengthen risk reduction concepts in national laws.

Nepal EQ 001 Nepal EQ 002

 

 

 

 

Update 4 May: Practical Action teams are now in the remote villages in Ghorka. We have been able to source the vital supplies in Nepal, with only tents coming from India. Protecting local markets is a vital part of supporting local recovery #M4DRR.

We are beginning to see this resilience building in an ad hoc manner in some communities in Nepal, and this reflects the state of affairs globally. But it needs to happen everywhere; it needs to be systematic. This requires additional, predictable and sustained funding for disaster risk reduction. But will the terrible toll in Nepal finally prompt lasting change? Is it enough to hit home about the need to reduce vulnerability and improve preparedness?  Do we now have the impetus to build back better – recovering in a way that builds resilience to future disasters? And is it enough to persuade donors and governments to fund this resilience building?

States are currently negotiating an international agreement on the future financing of development[3]. Led by the United Nations, the agreement will lay out principles and targets to guide domestic and international public and private funding for sustainable development. The devastation in Nepal more than ever highlights the need for a specific funding target within this agreement on disaster risk reduction. After all, disasters are a development issue; disasters are exacerbated by bad development, and can reverse decades of progress in seconds. Sustained and predictable funding can help to mainstream risk assessments in local development planning and policies, builders could be trained in hazard construction, hospitals and medical staff could receive disaster preparedness capacity building, and disaster prevention could be integrated into school curriculums.

It is sad that it often takes catastrophes to catalyse these changes. Some of the most significant achievements in international, national and local disaster policies occurred in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Let’s hope the international community can learn from the devastation in Nepal and raise international commitments to finance resilient development, so that these human tragedies and economic losses can be largely avoided in the future.

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/05/us-quake-nepal-collapse-idUSKBN0NI12120150505?utm_source=twitter

[2] Bollinger, L., S.N. Sapkota, P. Tapponnier, Y. Klinger, M. Rizza, J. Van der Woerd, D.R. Tiwari, R. Pandey, A. Bitri, S. Bes de Berc (2014) Estimating the return times of great Himalayan earthquakes in Eastern Nepal: evidence from the Patu and Bardibas strands of the Main Frontal Thrust, Jour. Geophys. Res., DOI: 10.1002/2014JB010970

[3] http://www.un.org/esa/ffd/overview/third-conference-ffd.html

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NB: An earlier version of this blog by Lucy Pearson and the BOND DRR Working Group appeared on the BOND website

Seven lessons from Nepal Earthquake

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 by

‘Life is unpredictable’ is a cliché more than a statement. But that cliché has become the most relevant statement in our lives. The recent earthquake that shook Nepal was definitely the worst experience of my life. The moment that it happened and its aftermath both were equally scary and devastating. During the earthquake itself, I felt the ground trembling beneath and the roof shaking above me, I had mentally prepared myself that the roof will fall anytime right on my head. I had never been more scared my whole life, but the hours and days after the earthquake were more heart breaking. My city is broken, my whole nation is in pain, people are suffering, and if there is any feeling at the moment which is more overpowering than fear and pain is the feeling of helplessness; of hardly being able to do anything about it.

But like every problem and sorrow, this whole experience has taught me some valuable life lessons that otherwise I would have never realised. In a matter of days our lives are completely changed, and this has given me a different perspective on life. Here are the seven lessons that I learnt as Nepal earthquake survivor.

  • You get clear of what really is important in life

The first thing that you think about during such disaster is the safety of your family (if you are not together). This family may not just include immediate family but the people who are important to you. You realise that people are the most important ‘things’ in life – everything else can be gained back. Your bank balance cannot save your life when the roof comes crumbling down your head, but your neighbour possibly can (by helping you out of the rubble).

  • You learn to cope

When life puts a very difficult situation ahead of you, you learn to cope to survive. The first instinct in this situation is to cope for survival rather than mourn or be sad. The earthquake brought everyone on the same ground under the same open sky. The rich and the poor, the young and the old everyone was there sleeping outdoors under open sky, no one was possibly ready for such situation in life, but there was no option than to cope to the situation.

IMG_9213

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Luxury isn’t important; love is

You just realise how little actually is required for survival. Living in tents for a few days with the very basic necessities like food, water, warm clothes, shed that was enough to keep us going. The luxuries were forgotten, but the bond between families, neighbours and friends got stronger. I saw people sharing whatever they had and looking out for each other. It was love that gave us strength and kept us going. I felt like meeting and catching up with everyone and hugging everyone tighter !

  • You value life more

Everyone who was okay was feeling grateful just to be alive. Even those who lost their homes express gratefulness on being unharmed. People express how lucky they are to be alive rather than saying how unlucky they are that their house got damaged. I feel grateful for this life and have realised the value of small things like enough food to feed ourselves and a roof above our heads.

  • You rise above the sorrows

In a situation like this, we were all victims. The aftershocks were scaring us all and our families wanted us to stay with them all the time. But, I saw that people who were luckier did not stay put, they stepped out to help the ones less fortunate. We could not sleep and eat properly thinking about the people who lost their homes and loved ones, who needed immediate help. Many people helped others, putting their own lives at risk, everyone stepped up in any way possible. It humbles me to see how everyone is so compassionate about other’s pain and willing to make themselves useful. I have never seen my country more united !

  • Life goes on

They say that there is only one thing constant about life, that ‘it goes on’. Slowly we are getting used to the aftershocks, to the rubbles, to the danger marks on buildings and even to the pain. Gradually, the shops, businesses, offices are opening. People have started picking up the broken pieces and getting back to their lives.

  • Hope is stronger than fear

This was certainly the most fearful situation faced by all of us. It is hard to live in a state of constant fear, to be scared of the walls on your side and the ceiling above your head. Suddenly, every structure looks like a threat. It breaks your heart to see your nation in pain, heritages broken, and people suffering. But one thing, that keeps us going is Hope. Hope that everything will be eventually alright. We cannot bring back the people who are gone, but we have to stay strong and build back the nation. And that hope gives us the strength to overcome the fear and step up to help each other out.

Nepal needs us more now than anytime.

 

 

(We will need your help to bounce back and to rebuild, please donate to https://practicalaction.org/helpnepal)

What I saw in Gorkha after the earthquake

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 by

I recently visited one of the severely earthquake affected districts – Gorkha which is also one of the project areas of Practical Action. When I was approaching Gorkha, I could easily see the effect – the hills were covered with orange or blue patches – tarpaulin which people are using as temporary shelter. The situation is panicking as aftershocks are still active. I could see fear in the peoples’ face when they feel the aftershock, escaping out of their vulnerable habitat.

Temporary shelter made of orange and blue Tarpaulin

Temporary shelter made of orange and blue Tarpaulin

I managed to visit a nearby village (Paslang) in the municipality which is completely destroyed; there were 28 houses in the area and now only 4 are standing. The quake claimed two lives – a nine-month-pregnant woman and a month-old child. People are in dire need of shelter. They are managing somehow for food but for shelter they are waiting for the relief materials to reach their area.

Sher Bahadur showing the spot where his 9 month pregnant daughter-in-law lost her life

Sher Bahadur showing the spot where his 9 month pregnant daughter-in-law lost her life

I was in the district headquarters and from the scene one could easily imagine what it could look like in the remote villages in terms of relief and rescue. The temporary shelter in the district headquarters is crowded. There is no provision of toilets as well as people are not concerned about maintaining the hygiene practices – hopefully they have more important things to think about. When I enquired to some of the active social workers who were getting updates from the villages – they said that none of the temporary shelters has toilet facilities.

Woman sorting her belongings in the rubble at Paslang, Gorkha

Woman sorting her belongings in the rubble at Paslang, Gorkha

One could see lots of volunteers and development workers rushing in. It gives a feeling that they are competing with each other to get hold of the villages into their accounts but reaching to the sufferers is not at the expected level. It seems proper coordination among development worker is lacking which is a must – for Better Response.

Practical Action is conducting relief activities in six Village Development Committees (VDCs), three each in Gorkha and Dhading districts. In the first phase, the relief activities are particularly focused on temporary shelter, water and sanitation including toilets, nutritional diets, energy for lighting and mobile phone charging. In the second phase, after 3 to 6 months, the initiatives will be focused on rehabilitation and restoration of livelihoods with building back better activities.

Please help our work in Nepal.

Help women and children recover from disaster

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 by

It was 3.34 in the morning on 27 January 2010, when the earth starting shaking with the magnitude of 8.8 Richter Scale while I was sleeping safe and sound in the Valdivian City of Southern Chile. Together with my colleagues from the Philippines and Bangladesh, we suddenly moved out of the house. There were several aftershocks, no internet, no telephone, no water, no shopping malls open for food, etc. at least for four days.  It has been five years and I have not yet forgotten a single moment I underwent during this disaster in Chile; and this repeated a week ago on 25th April 2015 in Nepal.

I was busy preparing for the celebration of my daughter’s birthday, which is actually on 20th April; for some cultural reason, we postponed it to 25th April. I started feeling the movement of my house – which became stronger just in few seconds. From the third floor, I saw a collapsing five-storey house just a few blocks from mine burying 16 people inside. More than ten thousand have died and many more are seriously injured across the country, our cultural properties are gone and the nature has pulled us back so many years of development. What makes me cry over anything else are the children who have lost their parents and loved ones. Nearly a million children are already affected from the earthquake. Many more will be affected due to waterborne and infectious diseases and respiratory infections as they are forced to live under the cold open sky.

House destroyed from earthquake in Bhaktapur

House destroyed from earthquake in Bhaktapur

Hundreds of women have suffered miscarriages due to earthquake, thousands of new moms are suffering with their infants with a hope that things will change, and many have died while trying to protect their kids during the earthquake. While women and children are closely associated, they are most vulnerable. The latest figures from Nepal show that 53% of the affected population from the earthquake are female. This ratio is expected to increase in the coming days due to increased death of women and children if proper water and sanitation services are not provided in time. There are risks that women will suffer from urinary tract infections due to lack of proper sanitation and the taboo attached to menstruation in remote parts of Nepal.

Focus on water and sanitation

One of the major focuses of Practical Action during this relief period is water and sanitation. Our belief and actions on promoting appropriate technologies will be realised through the provision of potable water supplies, toilets, awareness on sanitation and hygiene, and management of waste in the temporary camps in Gorkha and Dhading Districts of Nepal. Destruction from disaster can not be undone, but we are confident in reducing the post-disaster deaths mainly of women and children through improved sanitation and hygiene.

#NepalQuake shook Nepal but not the Nepalis

Friday, May 1st, 2015 by

I still can’t imagine it was an earthquake. The futsal match between Practical Action and Handicap International was running at full throttle and 1-1 was the result. My three and half years old daughter was cheering for Practical Action together with my colleague Sachin’s daughter. Suddenly people started running away from the futsal ground. I thought a fight had ensued. But then I could hear sound of something collapsing. There was a huge roar. The spectators were running for safety. It was an earthquake. And it was big. Very big!

In spite of the hullabaloo, I was aware of the two little girls I had to take care of. Both the innocent girls had no idea what was happening. I took hold of both and ducked for cover. They were terrified to the bones by the stampede. Sachin ran to us frantically from the futsal ground and helped me take both the girls to a safe place.

All assembled were intimidated and trying to call their close relatives but to no avail. The situation was scary. The aftershocks were strong enough to send chills down my spine. My feelings were similar to that of my colleague Prabin’s account.

Pillion-riding back to my place, I could see the devastation though in bits and pieces. The terrorised Kathmanduites were out on the streets. Many walls on the way had collapsed down and many houses had visible cracks.

The following days were horrific – living in tents throughout the day and night with rumours of bigger earthquake to hit the city floating around causing more fear and panic.

After putting up with hundreds of aftershocks and sleepless nights I finally joined office on 28 April. However, I had not well recovered to resume my daily routine. I would once in a while get call from my wife and daughter requesting to get home early.

On my second day to office I made up my mind to visit the demolished sites. As I entered the New Road Gate, the once vibrant street bustling with crowd, was like a street of an abandoned city. Few people passing through the road section were hurrying towards their destinations in order to avoid the falling of buildings upon them.

As I passed through the always crowded street, I rushed through. The buildings seemed tall demons ready to devour me. Reaching the Joshi Complex, my after-office hangout with my friends for stress-buster chats over cups of tea, I was dumbfounded by the silence of the place. None of the shops were open even after four days of the horrific tremor.

When I moved to Basantapur, there was a barricade with “No Entry” sign. So I took a detour via Jhochhen, the Freak Street. As I reached the Basantapur Dabali, my weekend jaunt, I could not stop myself. There was a lump in my throat and I tried hard to stop the tears trickling down. The nine storey palace was nowhere to be seen. Sitting on the Dabali in its front, I would often gaze at the beauty and grandeur of the place. It was all gone within a matter of minutes.

Returning via Dharhara, the pride of Kathmandu built by Nepal’s first Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa devastated in 1934 AD earthquake, I could just see a short stump.

 

Dharhara, the pride of Kathmandu, has been reduced to a stump.

Dharhara, the pride of Kathmandu, has been reduced to a stump.

Along with durbar squares in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur – all World Heritage Sites, Dharhara, Kal Mochan and many significant monuments were reduced to mounds of earth. The 7.8 Richter scale earthquake that shook not only the country but also the confidence of Nepalis, has claimed lives of 6,250 and injured 14,357 as of 1 May according to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Around eight million people have been affected with 143,673 houses damaged and another 160,786 destroyed. Gorkha, Sindhupalchok, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dhading, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Kavrepalanchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap, and Sindhuli districts have been badly hit by the earthquake.

Can an earthquake be so ruthless? I still can’t imagine it was an earthquake. It was an Armageddon. But our never dying spirit hasn’t subsided. We will soon bounce back.

Journalist Ujjwal Acharya tweeted:

For the relief work, the government has identified shelter, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), health and food as the major priorities. Practical Action has rushed to its work areas in Gorkha and Dhading, two of the most affected districts.

Practical Action South Asia Regional Director Achyut Luitel tweeted:

Please join hands with us to help the earthquake victims.

Nepal earthquake: My experience in the heart of Kathmandu

Friday, May 1st, 2015 by

More than 4,000 people have died in the huge earthquake that hit Nepal at the weekend, and nearly 8,000 have been injured. Millions more have had their lives turned upside down.

Mary Willcox is a Principal Energy Consultant at Practical Action Consulting. She was in Kathmandu when it happened and recounts her experience. Like most Practical Action staff, she is not a qualified, professional aid worker and so returned to the UK this week.


I had stayed on after going out to Nepal to do a workshop on energy access in order to take a couple of weeks holiday, and was due to fly out on Saturday afternoon. I was in Thamel (the backpacker/shopping part of Kathmandu) at midday when the earthquake struck.

As if the ground had turned to liquid

Have you have ever been on a cable bridge – where as someone else treads on it, it shakes? It was as if the whole world was like that – as if the ground had turned to liquid.

I was pretty scared. I was in a narrow street, I didn’t have a map and I didn’t know exactly where I was. People were crouching in doorways to take cover and as soon as the quake was over we all ran to the nearest open space.

It was a pretty frightening few minutes, and I immediately decided that I could do without any more pashminas or other gifts to take back with me, and headed straight back, out of Thamel’s narrow streets, to the hotel I’d been staying in on Durbar Marg.

On the way back to the hotel I saw a few walls and some electricity poles fallen into the road, and a couple of people with minor injuries, but nothing which gave me any idea of the real scale of destruction.

destruction following Nepal earthquake

At the hotel, I found the rest of my party and other guests gathered in the parking area in front of the hotel, where we stayed for the next 5-6 hours.

Very little information

Through the afternoon there were aftershocks and news trickled in of some of the earthquake’s effects (like the collapse of Bhimsen Tower), but still nothing which really gave a picture of what had happened. We didn’t know where the epicentre was. There was very little information. We heard that the death toll was estimated to be hundreds at the end of the day so at that point in time the scale of the earthquake wasn’t apparent. There was no internet access either. Everyone sent texts to family to let them know they were ok.

Aftershocks in the night

By 6pm, clearance came through from the government for people to go back into buildings. That allowed me to retrieve my luggage and passport from my room but the airport had been closed, so I stayed at the hotel overnight. The hotel (a substantial modern building) had suffered some damage but nothing catastrophic, though most of us chose to sleep outside around the pool. I don’t think I’d have got much sleep if I’d stayed in my room.

There were various aftershocks in the night and I was woken by a particularly big shock at around 5am.

The airport was chaotic

The next morning, I took a taxi to the airport which, by 7am, was already chaotic. The roads between the hotel and the airport were open and traffic had continued to flow throughout. Though there were a lot of people wandering around who had obviously slept on the roadside and other open areas, again there was no sign of wholesale destruction.

After 3 hours queueing I managed to get into the security area and from there into the check-in hall. By about 1pm I was checked onto a plane scheduled to leave for Delhi at 4pm, but then there was another significant aftershock, and though a few more flights left that afternoon, at about 7pm it was announced that my flight had been cancelled. By then aid had started coming in – mainly by the Indian Air Force, but I think there was also some from China.

Kathmandu airport Nepal earthquake

I decided to stay in the airport to be at the front of the queue for check in the next morning – but so did lots of other people. By this point the airport was pretty squalid – food and water had pretty much run out and the loos weren’t working (I think the system had been damaged in the earthquake). By 10am I’d checked in, and by 2pm I was on a flight to Delhi, where I managed to get my original flight booking back to the UK transferred to that night’s flight, and I got back to Heathrow on Tuesday morning.

Living in fear

All in all, I suffered a few minutes of fear and a couple of days of inconvenience. That’s nothing to what’s facing people in Nepal now who have lost relatives, had homes and businesses destroyed, and are living in fear of another major earthquake. It’s really brought home to me that the superficial visible damage is just the tip of the iceberg relative to the real long-term damage to the infrastructure of people’s lives. Despite this, all the Nepali’s I encountered were calm and courteous and anxious about the well-being of visitors, from the hotel staff who managed to serve all the hotel guests a hot meal on the evening of the earthquake, to the airport staff who were handling many times the usual number of passengers, combined with backlogs from cancelled flights, and conflicts between getting people out and aid in – A skeleton staff working 16 hour shifts was struggling to deal with this and they are the heroes for me in this story.

Help people rebuild their lives

I had a tiny glimpse of a horrible event, and have really no better picture of what has happened, and is likely to happen, than anyone else who has been following events on the media. It seems likely that it’s going to get worse before it gets better – and that recovery is going to be a long haul not a quick fix. The first phase is obviously going to be focused on getting immediate help to people in the worst-hit areas, and it’ll be after that that we may be able to help people rebuild their lives. Hopefully, as the picture becomes clearer, our colleagues in Nepal may be able to give us ideas on how we can best help.

Practical Action has launched an earthquake appeal. Please help our work in Nepal today and donate now.