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'Heard Cries of Help, but Could Do Nothing': Survivors of Nepal Earthquake

"I heard the noise and rushed to the house. But when I got there, the two-storey house was completely destroyed."

South Asians
4 min read

"When I woke up at 11:46 pm as I felt the shocks, I heard a bleak voice of our neighbour shouting, 'save me, save me'," 26-year-old Bimala BK of Chiuri village in Nalgad Municipality-1 of Nepal's Jajarkot district told The Quint.

Her neighbour, 55-year-old Hire Kami, was buried under the rubble of his house after an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude hit western Nepal at midnight of 3 November.

"However, it was not possible to see him in the dark, so we could not rescue him," Bimala narrated.

The recent tragedy in Nepal took the lives of at least 157 people, including Hire, and left over 190 injured. According to the District Administration Office (DAO), 105 people were killed in Jajarkot district, and 27 people in the bordering West Rukum district. Days later, at 4:31 pm on 6 November, another earthquake of 5.8 magnitude hit Jajarkot district.

Last week, Nalgad Municipality, which lies about 529 kilometers west of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, saw the highest casualties with the deaths of 55 people, according to Mayor of Nalgad Dambar Bahadur Rawat.

The Night of Tragedy: As It Happened

When The Quint met Bimala on 5 November, two days after tragedy struck her village, she was sitting outside her house, staring at the rubble-filled space where Hire's home once stood. Hire's final words have been echoing in her mind, she said.

Recalling what happened on 3 November, Bimala said she rushed to his house as soon as she heard the first cries for help.

"I heard the noise and rushed to the house. But just when I got there, the two-storey house was completely destroyed," she added.

"Hire's voice shouting ‘save me, save me’ still echoes in her ears. Remembering what happened at that time breaks my heart. It hurts a lot," she told The Quint.

However, there was not much that Bimala and her neighbours could do in a village without electricity to aid the rescue efforts.

"We used lights by using electricity from solar power, but that too was destroyed due to the strong tremors," said Bimala. "I went near them in the dark and started looking for them."

With no option left, Bimala said, the neighbours started removing the stones and mud by hand. But it was not just Hire she had to rescue.

"I could hear my brother (Hire), who was on the ground floor of the house," Bimala adds. Upstairs, his eight-year-old daughter Premkali BK and 15-year-old daughter Rupa BK, along with a friend from the neighbourhood, were sleeping," she recalled to The Quint.

The neighbours only managed to save Hire's two daughters – Rupa and Premkali – as they were stuck in the top.

"Hire could be heard for a while, but the sound stopped when the children were taken out," said Nandkali BK, another neighbour who was involved in the rescue operations.

Along with Hire, his wife Chandrakala Kami (30), and his sons Sunil BK (15), and Bimal BK (14) were all found dead.

"By the time we had removed the stones and mud by hand, they had died," Nandkali said.


'House Collapsed After First Tremor'

In Nalgad Municipality's Chamakhet village, 24-year-old Samir Pariyar lost five of his relatives who were at his home – including his sister Sabita Pariyar (38) and nephews Bishnu Pariyar (15) and Sandeep Sunar (18 months).

"I was in deep sleep on Friday night when I was thrown away, along with the bed, due to a powerful tremor. I couldn't move because I was completely covered in stones and mud. Just as I realised what was happening, our house collapsed," Samir told The Quint.

"I was frantically looking for my pregnant wife, who is due to deliver next month. I saw her in the front yard, but I couldn't spot other relatives," he added.

Samir's sister's friend Bindu Lama (28), who also stayed in their house on Friday night along with her daughter Bipana Lama (9), were also killed.

According to Lokendra KC, a neighbour who came to the family's rescue, the stone and mud house collapsed right at the first shock.

"There was a person downstairs who was shouting 'help, help.' We started digging after hearing the sound. We managed to save Bhagwati Pariar, who is Samir's mother, and rushed her to the health centre," Lokendra said.

Nalgad Municipality Loses Its Deputy Mayor

The people of Nalgad also lost their Deputy Mayor Sarita Singh to the tragedy. She had travelled to the Jajarkot district headquarters Khalanga on 3 November evening to attend an official event, where she was staying in her rented accommodation.

"Since she had to go to district headquarters frequently, she had taken a room in rent in Khalanga. She was in her room when the earthquake occurred. The rescuers started to take out those who were upstairs, and hence she died after the rescue was delayed," her brother Hom Prakash Singh told The Quint.

According to Dr Bikash Uprety, Head of Nalgad Primary Health Post, more lives could have been saved if the injured were brought to the health centre sooner. However, the geographical terrain of West Nepal made it more difficult.

"It was also taking more time due to landslides that could be triggered after the earthquake," Dr Uprety added.

(Gaurav Pokharel is a journalist based in Nepal.)

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Topics:  Nepal Earthquake 

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