April 25, 2015, Saturday. It was almost noon and my friend Tilak Pathak and I were working at the Center for Media Research Office at Shantinagar, Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Suddenly, a strong earthquake struck. The jolt was so powerful that it was difficult to stand. Both of us rushed outdoors for safe shelter but could not manage to get outside the street. It took us a few seconds to get out of the office. I managed to catch a branch of a peach tree while Tikal caught a rope hanging nearby.
The owner of the place was frightened and crying as she fell to the ground with her companion. I tried to catch them but the ground was swinging and I failed to get a hold of them. I noticed that we were in the middle of three houses. Immediately, I surveyed my surroundings and determined the place where we were staying was safe for the time being. But still the shaking was continuous and I heard sounds of houses cracking. The thought of death seemed inevitable at that time.
The quake was traumatic. It seemed to last for at least three minutes. We breathed a sigh of relief when it ended and we decided to go outside to look for open spaces. Many people were already there. Some were weeping while some were unconscious. Parked motorcycles by the roadside had fallen to the ground. There were scattered bricks everywhere.
I wanted to contact my family but I forgot my mobile phone inside the office. Trusting my guts, I rushed back to the Center to get my phone. I tried to contact my family members, friends and colleagues but to no avail. So I logged in to Facebook and posted a status update. I also saw that my friends Ujjwal Prajapati and Tara Adhikari have uploaded their own photos to show their situations. Others around me were busy trying to talk to their loved ones.
Luckily, I get to live for another day; it felt like winning a war. But whatever we were facing, it wasn’t finished yet. Aftershocks were frequent. I heard people talk about Dharhara, a heritage building of nine storeys that collapsed with many people trapped inside. I also learned three people died when they fell from the entrance door to our office, just 250 meters away from where I was standing.
I understood by then that this earthquake has brought massive destruction.
I spent around twenty minutes in shock as I observed the situation surrounding me. When I felt the tremors have stopped, I entered the office premises. The building was upright and mostly intact but the surrounding wall has fallen. Upon entering the building, I felt another jolt. So I immediately left the Center to go to Kantipur TV (KTV) where I work as a news editor.
I thought the KTV office must have been damaged as well because it is inside a tall building. When I arrived in the area, there was a crowd in the open spaces of the road. Almost everyone were pale and frightened. A bulldozer was trying to remove the damaged gate in Shantinagar. Ambulances were all in a hurry. It took me about 15 minutes to reach our office. I was happy to see my colleague Himal Neupane who told me all of my colleagues were safe. I also found out the epicenter of the earthquake was in the Gorkha District.
Some of my officemates have already left to shoot visuals, collect information and cover the events in various parts of Kathmandu. They said the causalities were high and infrastructures sustained immense damage. Then I met Dilbhusan Pathak, the news chief of Kantipur Television. He gave us an overall situation of the terrible impact of the earthquake. He also shared the difficulties of sustaining broadcast operations for news and their decision to work outside the office for safety reasons. No one is in the office and the television channel was running in an auto play system.
We discussed further how we can continue our work because it is our responsibility to inform the people during these tough times. It was unsafe to broadcast inside the studio so we brought our newsroom outside together with our OB (outdoor broadcasting) Van. It was my task to coordinate with the news chief, production personnel, producers, anchors, reporters and camera persons. Anil Thapa and I prepared a tentative script covering major details of the catastrophic earthquake. It took us about half an hour to prepare our equipment for a live broadcast from the road. We tried to deliver the news as efficiently as possible.
We collected visuals and updates from the Kathmandu Valley and nearby locations and reported them immediately. We felt aftershocks in the middle of a live broadcast. Despite these challenges, we kept working. We provided a steady stream of updates by letting our news anchors and reporters banter live about the latest situation in the field. They also talked with residents in the area.
While I was playing a key role as news editor of the day, I took time to contact my family. I learned the earthquake affected my house in my hometown of Palpa. It was not serious though and all of my loved ones are safe. It took a while before we had a clear picture of the casualties in Nepal. At least four thousand people died. More were injured. There is also a huge crowd in the hospital and the road. Thousands were now homeless after the earthquake affected more than 29 districts. Old structures that are important to Nepalese culture and heritage have crumbled to the ground. The government mobilized all available resources but we need more help. Many people are still missing and the death toll may increase further in the next days.
I have previously written news reports about disasters. But this is different. Facing and observing such cruelty of nature up close is the saddest news story to make.
Late in the evening I returned home with Himal. I saw many people on the road. Some people were living in tents and mats; many were lying on the ground. I reached my room. My elders and younger brothers were there. My nephew, niece and brother-in-law were in open spaces, afraid of aftershocks. The threat of another earthquake scared them but I convinced my loved ones that it is counterproductive to live in fear. No one has succeeded in forecasting earthquakes.
We managed to stay outside the whole night. Aftershocks are possible according to experts. While I was at home, we felt two big jolts. Around 2pm, it rained, adding to our misery. I had no choice but to go to my bedroom so I could sleep for a bit, praying and praying…
[Entry 80, The SubSelfie Blog]
About the Author:
Bhuwan KC is a news editor for Kantipur Television in Nepal. All photos in the article are from his fellow Nepalese journalists Ujjwal Prajapati and Krishna Acharya. Special thanks to JM Nualla for coordinating with the author to deliver us their story despite the crisis in Nepal.