Nepal Earthquake Anniversary: A Journalist Recollects the Horror


A monk takes photo of damaged monastery from last year’s earthquake in the Swayambhunath stupa, in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 25 April, 2016. (Photo: AP)
A monk takes photo of damaged monastery from last year’s earthquake in the Swayambhunath stupa, in Kathmandu, Nepal, on 25 April, 2016. (Photo: AP)

Nepal Earthquake Anniversary: A Journalist Recollects the Horror

25 April, 2015 was not a usual Saturday for my mother and me, we both woke up early, she performed her morning prayers, we had our breakfast and both of us then headed towards the southern part of the valley to book an apartment in the newly constructed 14-storey Kathmandu skyscraper.

At 11:56 am, the earth beneath us shook violently, the windows of the apartment rattled and it took a few seconds before we realised what was actually happening. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake shook the entire country that Saturday morning. The shaking became unreal as it continued for a long time. Everyone was screaming and running out of their homes, not knowing where to go. My mother and I struggled to get out of the room, holding each other’s hands but we tripped and fell, making it impossible for us to get back up and move out.

I feel that the ground is shaking, even when it’s not. Even if we try our best to prepare ourselves mentally, what do we do if another earthquake strikes?&nbsp;(Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ <b>The Quint</b>)
I feel that the ground is shaking, even when it’s not. Even if we try our best to prepare ourselves mentally, what do we do if another earthquake strikes? (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ The Quint)

The tiles on the floor began breaking and the walls started cracking. The skyscraper was irreparably damaged, posing a huge safety risk for its residents and those in the surrounding area. All we could think about at that particular moment was that we were about to face a horrific death. I had never been so scared.

When Tragedy Struck

Our hearts raced as we looked across and saw mud homes topple like a house of cards. Our ancient temples of historical importance were now a picture of rubble. The streets were flooded with people, not knowing what to do and where to go. Electricity was cut off, mobile network was disrupted and even though we could go inside our houses, we chose to stay out in the open inside our tents at home.

Hundreds of aftershocks followed, and the second earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit Nepal on the 12th of May, which caused further damage. Kathmandu had suddenly turned into a ghost town.

Journalist Shivani Chemjong anchoring a bulletin at a makeshift newsroom. (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Journalist Shivani Chemjong anchoring a bulletin at a makeshift newsroom. (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ The Quint)

Kantipur Television infrastructure was damaged, and we could not operate from the building, but our transmission had to continue, so we moved to the streets. Our office was suddenly transformed into make shift tents, we did LIVE coverage from the streets for a month. Sometimes the weather did not favour us, our tents were brought down by rains several times, but we continued.

Later we moved to a different location and started working under corrugated tin shed. This continued for almost a period of 3 months. We moved back to our office premises after 3 months and started functioning from our canteen in the ground floor. Well, that was one year ago.

File photo of rescue work in Nepal. (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ <b>The Quint</b>)
File photo of rescue work in Nepal. (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ The Quint)

A Year Later

A year later, life in Kathmandu valley slowly crawled back to normalcy. Business houses reopened, roads have been cleared and traffic has been unbearable which has led to a thick blanket of smog but most of the rubble remains and the earthquake-ravaged infrastructure has not risen from dust. The post-quake reconstruction work to rebuild Nepal is finally kicking off.

Journalist Shivani Chemjong recollects the horros of earthquake when it struck Nepal. (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Journalist Shivani Chemjong recollects the horros of earthquake when it struck Nepal. (Photo courtesy: Shivani Chemjong/ The Quint)

The aftermath of the devastating earthquakes are felt by people in the villages who are still living under makeshift tents, unable to rebuild their houses due to weak financial conditions and the government’s delay in providing them with the promised relief amount. It’s always the poor who suffer the most.

For the past year, everyone in Nepal –including myself – lived in fear. Our ‘earthquake go bag’ is ready, just in case another calamity strikes us again. Sometimes I feel that the ground is shaking, even when it’s not. Even if we try our best to prepare ourselves mentally, what do we do if another earthquake strikes? Because it’s not the earthquake that kills, it’s the poorly constructed infrastructure which had weak bones and could not withstand the force of the earthquake, and killed thousands of people under the rubble. The memories of the earthquake will forever be embedded in the hearts of all those who went through it.

(The writer is a journalist at Kantipur Television in Nepal)

Also read:

Feeling More Earthquakes Nowadays? Scientists Say No Need to Worry

I Survived An (Almost) Earthquake: You Won’t Be Impressed

(The Quint is now available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

Follow our Blogs section for more stories.

    Also Watch