Nepal Earthquake: Part 1 — The Big One

in four parts:

since i tried to live tweet my weekend, i’m going to expand on those and fill in some of the blanks. my heart goes out to the country of Nepal and its people — this tragedy affected them in ways i cannot even imagine. i’m one of the fortunate ones.

i keep staring at this picture below, which i took literally moments before the earthquake hit.

the normalcy haunts me. the location haunts me. when the 7.8 (7.9 now?) hit i hid under the table you see there, the one with the floral arrangement on it. i had just been dropped off at my hotel about 30 minutes earlier after a morning tour of Bhaktapur. it was too early to check in so i went looking for some much-needed coffee.

i was waiting for a waiter to come and take my order when:

at first there was a light rumbling, as if some big trucks were going by. no one really thought anything of it, but as the intensity increased, panic ensued. people started screaming and pouring out of the cafe and down the stairs. i hid under the table along with a waiter until things calmed down a bit, but got out of there as quickly as i could despite the ground still shaking. it’s not easy speedwalking (en masse) like that! i remember a girl, panicking and screaming her friend’s name, grabbing my arm as we made our way down the outside stairwell. i didn’t know her and she didn’t know me, but at that moment i could give her support and she needed it. the temblor was both powerful and long. what started out as a rumbling quickly escalated to violent shaking that never seemed to end. i know it must have only been for a handful of seconds, but it was so powerful. so so powerful.

everyone was stunned but there was a lot of commotion. we just stood in the middle of the street, staring up at the buildings. a brick wall had collapsed down a side street, several telephone poles fell over.

i was at the eastern edge of the Thamel district, the main tourist hub of town, and people started streaming out in droves from¬†the center part of the district out to where there weren’t so many multistory buildings. you can see the red dot below; that’s the cafe. my hotel is just off the top of the map about 1/3 of the way across.


i stood around for a while stunned, not sure what to do, and then finally made my way eastward (going with the tide) along Tridevi Sadak to that roundabout you see at the lower right.

Photos from Kathmandu

you can see how everyone was just heading east, out of Thamel, out of danger of falling buildings.

Photos from Kathmandu

people started gathering in the middle of the intersection. there was no first responder presence for a while, although i finally did see some police and military cars drive past and a couple helicopters in the air. i was very fortunate to be where i was, i think. no one i had seen was injured except for one non-local that was being driven by on a makeshift stretcher sticking out of the back of an old hatchback. he was smiling so i hope he’s ok.

Photos from Kathmandu

Photos from Kathmandu

a large aftershock hit (along with a couple smaller ones), and there were screams and a rush of more people to the middle of the roundabout again. i was born and raised in California and even though i’ve been through my fair share of earthquakes, it’s never been, thank goodness, as bad as this. even the aftershocks (large as they were) were probably as bad as anything i’ve ever experienced back home.

by this time, my tweets seemed to have picked up some traction and i was contacted by CNN in Atlanta for a phone interview. i was so busy trying to tweet (with the cell infrastructure barely staying alive, it seemed) that i didn’t even know the full extent of what was going on. it was only while i was on hold waiting to go on air that i was listening to the broadcast (they play what’s being aired while you wait, so you know the context, i guess). it was the first time i was getting details of what transpired. other people tried calling me via skype or actual cell phone but the connections didn’t hold up.

after milling about for another hour or so, i started to join the small trickle of people heading back into Thamel, passing by closed store after closed store. i’d never seen it so deserted.

Photos from Kathmandu

Photos from Kathmandu

Photos from Kathmandu

i thought to myself, surely the hotel would be open and i could just go upstairs and wait it out in my room, right? it was just the beginning of a long afternoon, evening, and night.

[continue reading]

1 Comment on "Nepal Earthquake: Part 1 — The Big One"

  1. I’m so glad you’re safely out of Nepal. Reading this post is CRAZY. It only sort of blows my mind that you didn’t know how big of a deal it was until you were on hold with CNN. The macro/micro view is so illuminating.

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