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Newsworthy EventI survived the Nepal Earthquake and walked thought the destroyed countryside, AMA.

May 1st 2015 by Richbirkett • 11 Questions • 370 Points

My short bio:

I've thought long and hard about how and when I tell my story of the past few days, but I guess I feel I should post this as to give my account of events on the ground during the quake and the days following. Please read the following and donate all you can to help.

I want to start by saying that the media coverage that I've managed to see over the past few days has focused very much on Kathmandu and Everest. Whilst I understand these are the biggest news drivers, and where the pictures have come from, having been in Kathmandu for the over a day, it doesn't seem to be the worst hit area, and the story about the absolutely devastated countryside is largely missing. I want to tell my story but only want to focus on what we've seen of the people.

We were on a bus on the way to Langtang national park when the quake hit, about 50km from the epicentre, at about 2000m. We weren't sure what was happening at first, maybe the bus was going over the cliff, but as the quake got worse and the shaking became very violent it became clear. People in the small village in which we had stopped began running out of their houses. The village itself lost houses that slid down the mountain, and shortly afterwards ambulances and jeeps were screaming past, along with motorcycles carrying injured to the nearest town.

We waited in the village for a few hours with many terrified villagers. When we felt it was safer we started to make our way on foot down the mountain through many small villages that were completely destroyed. We looked helplessly as we passed by people who had just lost everything. Stopping occasionally to talk to anyone who spoke English, we heard of many deaths, many injuries, mainly broken limbs, and lacerations , along with many animals lost that form the basis of most livelihoods.

We followed a valley to a town called Trishuli which was hit hard and resembled a small war zone. We stopped in the town in a small refuge centre in the back of a hotel for the night and two nurses we were with gave first aid to locals. The locals were amazing and happy to provide us with a place to sleep and food.

The night was full of aftershocks and we didn't sleep much but pressed on the next morning. Not far down the road we found a makeshift medical station on the street outside a pharmacy. The local hospital had collapsed and they were making do on the street, which was littered in medical packaging from the previous day.

The nurses we were with started again giving medical aid to locals with injuries, largely cuts and eye injuries etc. For a while we debated taking a young girl with a bad eye injury with us to try and find a hospital as the nurses though she could lose the eye, but we couldn't help her, and there was not suitable medical aid available locally.

We then hitch hiked about 10km along through many small villages also badly affected. At this point the road was blocked. The quake had thrown boulders the size of vans into the road, along with many landslides of mud, trees etc. This will take many days to clear to allow medical supplies and food to reach the badly affected areas.

We proceeded on foot for 35km to a village called Kakani where a local family found us a scout tent to sleep in for the night. During the course of the walk we were on steep mountain roads with ongoing quakes including the second big quake, which was very dangerous and extremely scary with rocks that could fall from above at any point and we would have nowhere to hide. We also came across a bus that had been hit by a number of large boulders. Inside were a number of bodies, at least 3 that were beginning to putrefy in the heat and attracting flies, pretty horrific. The police had neither the machinery nor means to get them out.

All of the traditional stone and mud buildings are heavily damaged, 10-20% are completely flattened and the rest missing walls, roofs, corners and floors. Many of the mountain homes were built on stilts which have given way. The damage is no less than catastrophic, and with roads blocked the emergency services are unable to reach them. Many of the buildings that are still standing are now beyond repair and too precarious for fixing or even in some cases entering.

We've seen and heard of many many deaths and injuries, and seen numerous funeral pyres being lit. Injuries are being treated very slowly in a makeshift way and hospitals are full to bursting if they haven't collapsed.

The next morning we hitch hiked back to Kathmandu and spent the next day or so organising flights etc. I have to say that help from my insurance company, Insure and Go, was terrible. They wouldn't help at all, and I will be making a very strongly worded complaint when I have a chance. Many travellers had their flights arranged by insurance companies or governments, and whilst the British embassy did provide a place to sleep and food/water, at the time I visited they were not providing any evacuation. Luckily we found a great hostel with a garage that gave us a place to stay for the night.

We went the next day to Dharahara Tower, which I had climbed less than 24 hours before the quake and Dunbar Square which are completely destroyed and teams were still digging, but many of the buildings in KTM are built with reinforced concrete and have survived. Considering the damage we'd seen in the country we were genuinely surprised at the situation in KTM.

The main issue now is water, food and shelter. Even in KTM we were starting to struggle to find bottled water and whilst the running water was on again it has been contaminated with sewage. Very scary. Many people are living in 'tents' made from plastic tarpaulins and the weather would turn in thunderstorms regularly. Lack of basic sanitation and disposal of rubbish could lead quickly to the spread of disease.

I was lucky enough to be able to book a flight out to Delhi but there were many people of all nationalities waiting outside the airport for any flight that they could get.

Our story is a lucky one, but please donate anything you can spare to avert what will quickly become a major humanitarian disaster.

See my story along with some of the pictures i took on the following sites

My Proof: http://districtmagazine.ie/feature/on-the-ground-in-nepal/

http://www.itv.com/news/2015-04-29/nepal-earthquake-we-passed-by-people-who-had-just-lost-everything/

Q:

VICE opened my eyes to how aid meant for Haiti ended up being a colossal boondoggle, wrought with greed and inefficiencies, ultimatley not helping those relief was intended for. Because of this I've decided to only donate to Doctors Without Borders, or local charities in matters of natural disasters. Do you know of any local groups that would be funneling their donations directly to the people impacted most?

A:

The guardian (very respected Uk news network) wrote a good article on how to donate http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/apr/27/nepal-earthquake-how-you-can-help-donate-aid


Q:

Hey OP, can you please provide a selfie with you holding a placard that gives today's date and the title "Rich Birkett AMA" so that we can verify that it is actually you who is conducting the AMA.

Thanks.

A:

https://wandererwithacamera.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/ama-proof/

Uploaded to my photoblog detailing my travels prior to Nepal


Q:

Approved, and I see that you took a lot of pictures from around the Rishikesh-Haridwar region. I am from around those parts :)

Did you fall in love with momos yet?

A:

Eaten so many of them it's crazy! I loved Haridwar, amazing place.


Q:

Some more proof would be great, but anyway.

Will Nepal be able to come back from this disaster?

A:

I believe so but it will take a long time. The losses in the countryside will take years to repair, and the knock on effect on tourism will cause permanent damage.

See more of my pictures and story on ITV (major UK news site) http://www.itv.com/news/2015-04-29/nepal-earthquake-we-passed-by-people-who-had-just-lost-everything/


Q:

What's up with all the white cars?

A:

Makes no sense


Q:

How horrible could it get further? Nature has shown what it is capable of. Did you inform about the locals and small villages when you reached KTM? I wonder if they have received any help yet.

A:

Yes, but it was very hard, KTM was in chaos, but the last I heard, the two nurses I was with headed back to Trishuli to set up a proper hospital with the WHO


Q:

A friend of mine has a daughter who was hiking through the Langtrang valley. I don't suppose in your limited travels there you perhaps may have encountered her and her friend? They are still listed as missing.

Already provided them the US Embassy number, but apparently the embassy there is hammered with requests. You may have been in the area they were last seen in most recently pre-quake.

https://helpbaileyandsydney.wordpress.com/

A:

Hi there,

It would appear the girl were 2-3 days ahead of me on the Langtang trail. We never made the starting town for the trail, and I haven't heard much from people who were on the trail itself. I did hear of a boulder blocking the trail near the first stop (they would be beyond this) and telephone signal on many of the trails is bad at the best of times, and most likely nonexistent at the moment. I can tell you that the road to the Langtang pass was still blocked a few days ago so rescuers may be struggling to reach the area. Sorry to not have better news and I hope that they are found alive and well.


Q:

Thank you for the information! anything we can gather to help get a better idea of where they may be helps. I have heard that there will be at least one search party heading out in the very near future, so this info will prove very useful.

A:

No problem. I've heard there are still a lot of people trapped on. Langtang without any contact. I wish you all the best with your search.


Q:

What is your reaction to people making fun of the disaster?

A:

Fortunately I haven't seen many people doing so but would clearly be sickened.


Q:

You couldn't find any bottled water? I'm guessing you're not from there. Don't you carry water purification tablets? Don't they know to boil water?

A:

The running water where available was contaminated with sewage and was brown. It would have need proper filtration, and the Nepalese people don't have many of water tabs available. Yes boiling water is possible but as above not ideal, plus supplies of gas etc to boil water on any huge scale are limited.