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Quake forces Nepalis to walk on water

  • 02 June 2015

The building alarm pierced our post-lunch slump, the thrust and shakes propelled us out the building unlike the previous 17 days of aftershock warnings. As I sprinted from the building the line of evacuees ahead swayed to a rhythm that only nature could own. At that stage I remember thinking the earthquake was massive but in a short time I would re-enter the building and return to work.

As a kiwi I had grown up with earthquakes. I remember them large, small and intrusive. I was awed by their power but always cherished the still that inevitably followed.

This is what made Nepal’s second major earthquake so different for me. I will never forget the beginning of the 7.3-magnitude quake, but will never recall the end.

The deadly second earthquake rolled like the largest of ocean swells, rocking and waving motion sickness, headaches and exhaustion through us. For what seemed like hours we were pummelled with more aftershocks. Each of them with the same effect: screams and cries from our local Nepalese staff and volunteers; heightened concern for poor Nepal’s families, homes and communities still aching from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake some 2 weeks prior; and a reminder of our insignificance against the mightiness of tectonic plates responsible for Nepal’s Himalayas.

I cannot remember any significant stillness from that afternoon or evening. In fact, when I lay to sleep that night in our guest house some 10 hours after the main temblor, I felt like I was tucked up in a ferry cabin for the evening’s sailing. Overnight, aftershocks startled us from our tidal stupor and those of us sleeping indoors evacuated to the lawn joining our colleagues who felt safer in tents - like hundreds of thousands of families across Nepal.

My perspective was verified by many that this earthquake was massive. But I was reminded by many more that this earthquake paled in length and strength to the 7.8 earthquake that paralysed Nepal one month ago on 25 April 2015.

The Nepal Government report that together both earthquakes have caused nearly 9,000 deaths, destroyed nearly 500,000 homes, severely damaged over 250,000 more, and affected more than eight million people in 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts.

In the days and weeks that followed the first earthquake, Nepal quickly became saturated with humanitarian agencies, government and multilateral pledges and commitments, and countless organisations of goodwill. On arriving one week after the first earthquake and travelling through Kathmandu’s