Memories of Kathmandu – One year on

We took refuge from the spitting rain in the doorway of a dank block of flats, underneath a corrugated iron canopy. The building loomed over us in the black night sky.

It was risky, but our reasoning was that it hadn’t taken any damage from the earlier earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) so the chances of it buckling on top of us whilst we slept seemed unlikely, IF we slept. We only had to wait a few hours until morning, and then everything would be OK. I propped a 2 litre water bottle under my head and lay still, flat on my back. The street would have to be our resting place for the night.

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What remained of our hotel, we had only been out for an hour or so.

I took refuge from the paralysing fear in the company and soft words of my friend. We talked and kept each other close on the dusty street of a broken city. We had everything we owned on our person.

The Nepali government had issued some kind of reverse curfew, ruling that we were not allowed to be inside any building before 7am the following morning, reducing the likeliness of further casualties if another earthquake was to hit.

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People lined the streets ensuring emergency services could navigate through the panic

We took refuge from our hunger, a local family offered us food and comforting conversation, they like many others were forced to camp out for the night.

Tremors and aftershocks reminded us every half an hour or so that we weren’t safe yet, that there still could be more to come. Even the small shakes and movements beneath us caused the same panicked reaction; we scanned each other’s faces, silently asking “did you feel it too?”

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A football pitch where families started to gather

The next morning we found the British Embassy. Some Canadians who had taken refuge overnight were being asked to leave, in order to find their own consulate. Having heard our story, they quickly opened their rucksacks, offering us clean clothes to wear.

We checked into the Embassy and registered our presence with the authorities. The Embassy complex was grand and clean. We ate porridge, showered off the smell of piss that we must have slept in and dressed the cut on my leg.

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The British Army and the Ghurkas who kept us safe

Within hours we, along with 300 or so other Brits, were bussed to the Gurkha Headquarters in Kathmandu. We took refuge there for 4 days and planned our journey home. In that time we slept comfortably and were fed well. We even had access to doctors and an internet connection. We made friends with some amazing people and heard each others stories, sharing the burden of our horrific experiences. We cried, we laughed and we knew that we were saved.

Safe in the Ghurka HQ with new friends.
In the Ghurka HQ with new friends

Out of no choice or fault of our own, we witnessed the physical collapse of a city and suffered with it. Over 8,000 people lost their lives and millions were forced from their homes to camp out in makeshift tents on the streets, busy roundabouts and in public parks. I still had a home to look forward to returning to.

I felt the very best of humanity that day, and in the days that followed. It’s kindest, most merciful and generous form. In a time of chaos and desperation I was shown how natural it is for human beings to come together in order to survive.

Love conquers fear, always.

Give what you can to those who are forced to take refuge:

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