AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE
April 29, 2015
Tom Martin reports on the scene in Kathmandu after the earthquake …
I arrived in Kathmandu last night (Tuesday 28 April 2015) after an extremely productive ear camp in Rolpa District with over 1,100 patients treated. We had been in Pokhara at the time of the earthquake inspecting the Ear Hospital which is close to completion and truly inspiring.
The earthquake struck as we left the building site: while prolonged (the movement seemed to last for about a minute) the movement was not too extreme in Pokhara and fortunately the city largely escaped the damage done in Gorkha, Kathmandu and rural regions such as Langtang.
I had arranged a short kayaking trip before flying back to the UK and took a bus from Chitwan (southwest of Kathmandu on the Indian border) to the capital last night. The journey was interrupted by a significant landslide and we had to wait 2 hours for a bulldozer to arrive to clear the road. Impressively, this clearance has been done in a very timely way. Talking to others at the hotel, landslides have been causing traffic disruption throughout the country and in many cases travellers have had to abandon their vehicles and walk.
We arrived in Kathmandu in the early evening to find a very dark city with only emergency generator lighting and large numbers of people leaving city to stay with relatives in less affected areas. The main tourist area, Thamel, is very quiet with many guesthouses, shops and cafes closed. In our guest house the majority of the staff have left the city and a dedicated skeleton staff are providing simple meals of bread and ‘super noodles’. A large number of homeless tourists are sleeping on the floor of reception.
In the city there are numerous collapsed buildings with rooms exposed to the elements and rubble strewn across the street. Many areas with the most damage (including the historic Durbhar Square) are sealed off while workers search through the rubble. In open spaces such as the Maidan, temporary accommodation tent villages have been established for those displaced.
We visited both the British Embassy and Bir Hospital (the main trauma centre) to see whether we could offer any assistance. I participated in some triage but the majority of the survivors were brought in to the hospital two or three days ago. A large number of foreign tourists had offered their support and there was no shortage of volunteers. In addition, we saw a number of foreign emergency teams in the city tending to injured Nepalis.
I am due to leave the city tomorrow morning and understand that international flights are operating, although there are some delays and cancellations.
This has been an extremely distressing end to a very rewarding and positive visit to Nepal. Our thoughts are with those for who this disaster will have repercussions for many years to come.