Escaping Death: My First Hand Experience of Nepal’s 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake
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Escaping Death: My First Hand Experience of Nepal’s 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake

You must have heard that Nepal was hit by a major earthquake in April of 2015. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter Scale. It was a disaster waiting to happen for 80 some years as is the pattern of earthquakes in Nepal. 
Scientists had been warning Nepal to be prepared for a major earthquake since 2001. And come 2015, it came! And brought with it, death and destruction. Let me give you an account of my brush with death on that black day.
Just a little backstory: Exactly a year before the earthquake struck, I had graduated from college in India and had returned home to my parents in Nepal to join my father’s business. I had been living with my parents for a year. Everything was going well, until that day. 

April 25, 2015

10 a.m.

I woke up late in the morning. It was a normal day. It was Saturday. It was a weekend and I was feeling so lazy. I was laying on my bed, with eyes wide open trying to decide what I would do that day. I didn’t feel like going outside. Maybe I would just catch up on some T.V shows.

11 a.m.

It was an overcast day and the winds were blowing real fast. It seemed like it was about to rain. I was actually having a good time. It felt like one of those days where you just want to snuggle up in a blanket the whole day with a book in your hands or watch some movies on your laptop.

11:30 a.m.

I had my breakfast and tea. I had no reason to believe that it could potentially be my last or that a horrific, life-changing incident was marching towards me at any moment. After my breakfast I started watching some YouTube videos. Some funny ones, I remember. I was laughing and having a good time. My sister was doing the same thing on her laptop. 

11:56 a.m.

The horror starts. It was my sister who noticed it first. She shouted, “Earthquake!”. For a millisecond, I was not sure what she said, or what was going on or why she was running frantically looking for cover and signalling me to do the same. Suddenly, I felt my heart rate shoot up and my adrenaline kick in as I felt it. 
A shake so powerful that I felt like I was walking on a wave of water instead of solid floor. I quickly joined my sister under a series of concrete pillars that stood at the very centre of the house; probably the strongest point of the house and the safest place to be at the moment. My parents ran towards us from the other room and all 4 of us stood together under those 4 pillars.
Even when I am writing this, trying to remember the moment, my hands can’t help but shake. It lasted for a full 56 seconds! The most horrible 1 minute of my life. We just stood there, waiting for our inevitable death to arrive. Such violent shaking. The house acted like it was liquid instead of solid; acted like it was a wave in an angry ocean. 
That scared the hell out of me. It was sure to us that the house would crumble upon us at any moment and we would all die. We stood there waiting for our fate. In that one minute, a million thoughts crossed my mind. It seemed like a slow motion movie scene; a one way ticket to the afterlife. 
Things were falling down left and right. I heard my mother scream continuously for a minute, beckoning god to save us all. I remember thinking that she was a fool. Calling out to something that doesn’t even exist. If there really was a god, would he be doing this to us? And just when my heart was about to give out under the strain, it all stopped!

11:57 a.m.

Our survival instincts kicked in. We went from cows ready to be slaughtered to deers, running at full speed trying to save our lives, trying to run from the predator that death was. We ran down the stairs barefoot and ran outside on the street where the entire neighbourhood had gathered. 
People were in shock, denial, fear. Some were crying. Some were panting. Some were looking for their loved ones. Some were badly hurt. There was a lot of blood everywhere. A lot of confusion going on, a lot of chaos. I, along with my family, stood besides a cab in a somewhat open area at a safe distance should any nearby building were to collapse. 

12:10 p.m.

The realisation of what had just happened finally hit me. We had just escaped death itself! As I looked around me I was overwhelmed by what was going on. It felt no less than an apocalypse. 
My legs grew weak for no reason at all and I sat there on the road for a minute trying to process everything! People started asking questions now. What was the magnitude of the quake. Which areas were effected? Where was the epicentre? What were the casualties?

12:22 p.m.

Now that we were more acquainted with the situation, we were just beginning to discuss our plan of action when suddenly, a major aftershock occurred. It lasted for what seemed like 5 seconds. 
It felt like a huge engine had been started deep underground that was making everything on top of it move like toys on a table. I distinctly remember the sound that the quake produced. It was a death call of mother nature, it was the sound of her fury. It felt like huge boulders crushing into each other.

12:30 p.m.

Another aftershock, and this one was bigger. Chaos ensued. People wanted to get to safer places as there were a lot of buildings and who knew how many aftershocks were to come next. We moved to a more open place a few 100 metres from our house. As we were walking in herds, I felt like a refugee, trying to just find shelter, be safe for once. I saw several collapsed buildings and huge cracks on ones that survived.

4:00 p.m.

It had been 4 hours since the quake hit and by now we had suffered through a dozen major aftershocks and a dozen minor ones. Night was approaching and we needed to find shelter in an open area soon. Nobody wanted to sleep in their houses. Nobody could tell if there would even BE any houses the next or the day after that if the rate of aftershocks remained the same.

6:00 p.m.

We, along with some of the other families that we knew, went to this Party Palace, where apparently many were already present. There was this huge open area that they used to use for buffets and an adjoining area for parking of vehicles. 
Hordes of people were coming in with their sheets and blankets to “reserve” some area for their families. The Party Palace crew and staff were nice enough to manage everything for everybody. We mustered up courage to run to our house and bring some blankets of our own. And we finally sat down together with the other families. 
I remember it was the first time I had felt ‘safe’ after the quake. Only now did I realise that my family had survived. In the midst of it all, I was perplexed by the fact that we actually made it. Had god intervened? I was just glad to be alive with my family. Today, I can’t even imagine what I would have done if anything had happened to them. What if I had died? I had celebrated my birthday just 3 days back!

7:00 p.m.

The Party Palace crew managed to provide dinner for some 200 people who had gathered. It was just rice. That’s it. No curry, nothing. Just cooked rice. But do you think I was grumpy because of that? No! I ate heartily whatever was provided although it was not much. I was a changed man.

11:00 p.m.

By now many were trying to sleep, but nobody could. How could they. Their lives would never be the same. They would always carry a scar in their soul. Also, by now, more than 30 aftershocks had occurred and we we were literally sleeping with one eye open.

April 26, 2015

1:00 p.m.

We were just sitting around, still in the open ground when another major aftershock occurred. This was a 6.7 magnitude, but it felt much bigger. Since we were in an open area, there was no threat to our lives but it still managed to strike fear into the hearts of everybody. It was like being on a boat that was being rocked continuously by the water. 
Seismologists say that the standard pattern for aftershocks is that the biggest aftershock occurs one day after the main earthquake, and one magnitude less.

The Next Days

We were on the grounds of that Party Palace for 4 full days before we could bring ourselves to go back home. At times, we didn’t know where our next meal was going to come from. Everything was closed and the resources of the Party Palace were just beginning to dwindle. But we managed to push through it all and after 4 days of agony, rain, sleepless nights, tears, aftershocks and survival, we decided to go back home. 
When we first went back, I felt like a mouse going towards a trap. As we reached our home, for the first time, we could see the damage the earthquake had done. The house was tilted by around 1 degree. Not something that was noticeable but something that did happen. I was surprised that the house stood its on. It was a 6 storey building and it must have shook like a tree in a storm.
The earthquake had done a lot of damage. Almost 10,000 people died and double that, got injured and a whopping 3.5 million people were left homeless, not knowing where to go. 
Even after we had ‘settled back’, aftershocks had continued and each time we had to run for our lives. It was like being an animal in a jungle where you need to run for your life on a daily basis for survival or be killed by the predator.

P.S. There are many things I didn’t include in this post. Horrible things that I have seen with my eyes just after the earthquake and during the 4 days I was at that ground. I just couldn’t bring myself to share all the horrible things I have witnessed. Maybe someday I will. But know that, this has changed me as a person. I am just grateful that I have been presented with a second life and I plan to do great things with it! :)

Note: All images used are taken from the public domain.


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