Nepal Earthquake - news from the ground
Cicerone Press author Sian Pritchard-Jones is currently in Nepal helping with the aftermath from the devastating earthquake. She is sharing daily updates of the struggles faced by the locals and we will post them here too. Some of it makes for difficult reading but mostly it demonstrates the hope and resilience of those affected and provides an insight beyond what we see in the newspapers.
From our own correspondent... sorry, nothing sensational here...
Kathmandu, May 1
Coming in to land, our first impression was that it all looked relatively normal, with hundreds of city lights ablaze (surprising with the record of power cuts in recent years). Flights into Kathmandu last night were delayed due to congestion at the airport. Our Air Asia flight could have touched down at 8pm, but we circled for 45mins before landing and then 30mins more were spent waiting for a parking bay near the terminal area. None of this was a surprise, but waiting 3hrs for the baggage probably was.
The baggage area was a sea of apparently unclaimed foreign aid supplies as well as personal baggage. Mountains of energy biscuits outside and more inside, boxes of water, food boxes and all manner of stuff ‘decorated’ the area. The delay appeared to be due to lack of handling staff, some evidently and unsurprisingly having gone to their stricken villages. One might question why some extra manpower was absent, such as the army? The airline ground staff were obviously totally at their wits’ end as plane turnaround times were 3-4hrs, making the congestion intolerable. At least the government has now stopped taxing the incoming aid.
Fortunately with 95kg of baggage, our old friend Uttam (now at Moonlight Hotel) sent his driver to collect us. Driving all the way to Thamel from the airport, we were surprised we did not see a single building in ruins, but the palace old entrance was damaged and so were a couple of other spots. It was quite a shock after the TV pictures we had seen in Malaysia. In fact it’s staggering to see so many buildings virtually intact, and very much a relief. Of course we have yet to venture into the old city, which we know is a big mess.
In fact it was the old historic wing of the Kathmandu Guest House that showed the most damage last night. It will have to be pulled down apparently, so that marks the end of the golden days of this glorious travellers’ retreat. Luckily we had electric power to make our cups of tea in the room, but no shower water; but by almost 2am, what the heck.
Kathmandu, May 2
A bright, sunny Kathmandu morning revealed the damage to the hotel and, with so many high-paying rescue teams checking in, we decided to make way at the hotel, especially since our favourite room 415 was closed off, being in the damaged area. The hotel is a hive of activity, with Japanese military sitting about linked to their computers and Indonesian humanitarian aid workers also filling the café area with their less sophisticated communication gadgets. They all appear to be awaiting instruction from the powers that be before they can do their tasks. We didn’t need to put on our yellow builders’ helmets from the helpful Chinese hardwear shop in Kuala Lumpur, but we have already called ourselves the useless Yellow Hat sect brigades!
So it was off to the Hotel Moonlight in Paknajol for a new experience. En route we dropped into Hotel Pilgrims to check that Sohan Shrestha was OK, and amazingly met Som Tamang, a recent acquaintance from Cairns. Sadly his brother was killed in the devastation of his village. It seems that the whole area of Helambu has seen its villages destroyed. His 8-year-old niece fell from an upstairs window as the house crashed down, and sustained jaw injuries. Fortunately she is making a slow recovery, but the terrifying trauma of the moment remains.
Siân Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons met in 1983, on a trek from Kashmir to Ladakh. Since then they have been leading and organising treks in the Alps, Nepal, Algeria and Niger, and exploring the world. However, they regularly return to their first love, Kathmandu and the Himalayas, and have published several books on the region.View Articles and Books by Siân Pritchard-Jones