Last week after successfully completing the Rickshaw Run with all my limbs intact, I decided to head up to Nepal for some peace and quiet. My plan was to grab a motorcycle and find a simple little cabin in the mountains that I could post up for a few weeks and begin sorting and editing the countless hours of footage I have from the Run.
When the first earthquake struck (magnitude 7.8) I was in my room near the top of Hotel Silver Home. Thinking I couldn’t run down that many flights of stairs, I opened my door and braced myself in the doorjamb as I watched the city skyline shake and crumble through the windows of my hotel room. Of course I did all of this after tweeting about the earthquake.
EARTHQUAKE IN #KATHMANDU #NEPAL EVERYTHING IS SHAKING!!!!!!! @LostBoyMemoirs
— Derek Freal (@the_HoliDaze) April 25, 2015
Remember kids: In an emergency tweet first, react second.
(In my defense I had the iPad in my hands and was already having a conversation on Twitter, so it only took a second to fire off. Cell service went down about ten seconds into the quake, so it was a good thing I let the world know what was happening first. Somebody had to break the news, right? 😉 )
The Minutes After The Nepal Earthquake
People in Kathmandu flooded to the open spaces in the minutes following the first earthquake
Walking the streets of Kathmandu immediately after the earthquake, trying to help out any small ways I could, I constantly came across scenes like this in the streets.
I managed to help a few locals and shopkeepers, but nothing too extreme. (The military didn’t seem to want any assistance from foreigners.) One gentleman even gave me a really cool wooden bracelet for helping him, which I will cherish forever…or at least until it breaks and gets replaced.
Mere minutes after the first quake ended, foreigners could be seen crawling atop rubble without any consideration to the fact that people could be buried alive underneath them.
A panicked tourist tries fruitlessly to withdrawal money from the ATM minutes after the earthquake.
In The Hours After The Nepal Quake…
The aftershocks continued, each time causing fresh panic, but the rescue options got underway. Military convoys arrived in town and a truckload of canines was brought in to help sniff out survivors buried beneath the rubble.
Within hours the military had arrived with shovels and other tools to help rescue people trapped in the rubble. Photo by my quake buddy David Stone.
The first two days were utter chaos in Kathmandu, with police and military everywhere. Photo by my quake buddy David Stone.
Here the building on the right had fallen sideways onto the building next to it, that only thing keeping it from completely collapsing.
People remained huddled in open plazas in between aftershocks.
The damage was far more extensive than I initially thought.
That First Night After The Nepal Quake
Although the hourly aftershocks had been getting progressively smaller, the entire town feared a second earthquake and was settling in for a night under the stars. People had flocked to parks and the open highways, anywhere without tall structures nearby. Hotels vacated. Most of the city was pitch black. And eerily silent.
Hotel staff is walking through "you sleeping here or moving?" I'm sure you already know I picked the first option #Kathmandu #Kathmanduquake
— Derek Freal (@the_HoliDaze) April 25, 2015
Convinced the worst was over, myself and my two new quake buddies in the floor below me (David Stone, two of whose photos are featured here, and his buddy Rick) decided to stay in our rooms. It was cold outside. Our beds were comfortable. And the aftershocks made them feel like 1950’s coin-operated massage beds. Quite soothing after a tense day.
Unwilling to trust us fine upstanding not-so-young travelers with the hotel keys, the staff actually locked the three of us inside and told us “message me on Facebook if you need to be released, I’ll be sleeping in the courtyard out front.” Yes, seriously. Just in case we moved a stool near the front glass wall in preparation for a hasty evacuation, should another quake strike in the night.
The Day After The Nepal Earthquake
Rubble, rubble, rubble everywhere.
Hundreds of thousands of locals were camped out in parks in and around town. Even if their home was still standing, everyone was too afraid to sleep in it.
A fresh water truck pulled up at one of the camps and the first on the scene were kids, eagerly filling up their old bottles, drinking it all, and then fighting for more.
This entire structure was leaning forward but because of my poor camera angle, this is not evident. Regardless, I am quite convinced those two wooden supports are holding this entire structure up.
Tourists stockpile simple foods and basic supplies from one of the few shops open.
The Chinese shop pictured above aggravated a lot of people over the following two days. Despite the fact they were open, they were selling expired food at inflated prices. I mean seriously now, yes it is crisis time, raise the prices or sell expired food but don’t do both at once — that’s just low!
But because the store also had an ample supply of alcohol, this quickly became a hangout spot for tourists whom had survived the quake to share their tales over a warm beer or five.
Survivors share stories of where they were during the two big quakes over warm beer.
The Following Few Days…
The city began to rebound surprisingly fast. Small vendors began selling simple snacks and bottled water at normal pricing. (The only price gouging that occurred was in Thamel.) Electricity gradually began to be restored, block by block. Buses and taxis began operating again. There was a one hour queue for petrol, limited to 500 NRs (just under 5 litres). But people remain camped outside, still frightened after the second large earthquake.
Kathmandu two days after the first earthquake.
With no refrigeration available, for three days the only food available was vegetable rice or chow mein and bread. Unless you knew someone who had a few chickens they didn’t mind killing, which is how I got this chicken curry here. With chickpeas and flattened rice.
The Nepalese, in addition to being very friendly and hospital, are also admirably strong. This earthquake will not break them. It will only make them stronger. I have spent many many hours over the last four days speaking with locals and have been greatly impressed by all I have witnessed and learn. My spirits remain high for Nepal.
Amazing dinner and 2-hr convo with a Nepalese family on outskirts of Kathmandu. Life resumes after #NepalEarthquake pic.twitter.com/dSixByR4uW
— Derek Freal (@the_HoliDaze) April 27, 2015
But The Country Still Needs Help
How You Can Help Victims Of The Nepal Earthquake
The areas hardest hit were mountainous regions with few roads of already dubious quality and towns with minimal infrastructure. People arriving here to help, even with the best of intentions, will only get in the way. So please, donate money instead of time.
Global Giving is the premiere relief fund for victims of the Nepal earthquake. Having surpassed their initial one million dollar goal, they are now striving for $2,500,000 and are nearly there.
I am still in Kathmandu and will continue to be for the next several weeks.
Have any questions? Still searching for anyone? How can I help or what would you like to know?
UPDATE: I am doing relief work in a few villages in the mountains that were hardest hit. Apologize if I am out of contact for a few days but I assure you, many more stories are coming. Stay tuned to @the_HoliDaze and @theHoliDaze for all the newest updates.
17 thoughts on “Kathmandu Photos Minutes And Days After The Nepal Earthquake”
Amazing recollection. I have never been in an earthquake and have no immediate desire to be in one. It amazed me at the train station in north London where I live where some woman was complaining that it was a little colder than normal and she had to get a thicker jacket. Some people, especially in the UK, don’t realise how bloody lucky they are to live in a land of opportunity, have healthcare, jobs and no natural disasters. It snows for about 3 days a year (when everything goes tits up for 3 days!), our climate is one of the world’s mildest yet people here bitch and moan. I was tempted to say to this woman ‘if you don’t like it here, go live in Nepal, and then you would have a real reason to moan.’ Great account of what happened there. I am thrilled to hear the Nepalese are getting back to normal and it is unfortunate that so many lost their lives. I count my blessings every day that I live in a country where I don’t have to worry about that.
Completely agree with you Andy. If it’s not complaining about minor inconveniences then it’s gossiping about celebrities. It is both amazing and appalling that stuff like the color of some girl’s dress starts trending and gets more attention then serious problems, like NSA spying or war in Georgia. But then again if citizens barely even bother to pay attention to what’s really going on in their own country, should it be any real surprise that a situation such as this results in little more than idle chatter for a day or two before being forgotten? Maybe if people would open their eyes they would become aware just how lucky they truly are. (That is just one of many reasons why traveling makes you not only wiser, but also a better person.)
The fact that Nepal is home to Everest, a place which is known the entire world over, is undoubtedly what helped shine the spotlight on this tragedy. However I despise the fact that the death of a dozen people in an Everest avalanche has attracted more attention than the more than 5,000 locals (and counting) who perished in the cities and villages located much closer to the epicenter. Utterly appalling.
Agreed. The media must have been delighted when some minor disturbances occurred in their beloved USA so they could get the real news out of the way. One life in the USA constitutes to around 50,000 elsewhere. Another one of my gripes in life. God bless the people, the families and loved ones in Kathmandu.
I’m next door in Pokhara Peace Hotel!! It has been an odd few days hasn’t it? Did you get the fake volcano report too?
What?! A fake volcano??? And double-what, you are right next to me? Small world. What are you up to tonight and how much longer will you be around for? I hope you realize that we have to meet up for a bite and a chat before you leave 🙂
Sure! It would be great to meet up. I’m here for quite a while, I’m looking at joining All Hands Volunteers or a similar organisation. 🙂 I’m doing some volunteering packing stuff tomorrow, but am free late afternoon and night.
What is the best way to reach you? I have a Nepali # but I don’t know it, so Twitter or email works best. Or you can always ask the staff here at Hotel Silver — been here so long they all know me.
I’m headed out to help with relief efforts for a couple villages Sunday but am completely free Saturday afternoon / evening so yea, let’s definitely get together 🙂
Hi sorry I’ve been packing all day, then there was a volunteer meeting to go to and our WiFi at the hostel fell over. Monday or Tuesday? I check Facebook most often but I’ll try to tweet you too.
Sure, give me a tweet whenever. I have data here and am always on there. Not an FB person. Tuesday is definitely best for me now, I have a lot going on in the meantime. Can’t wait to see ya then though (if we haven’t already glimpsed each other in passing or across the rooftops) 😉
Thank you for sharing this Derek. your post will help me pitch to more NGOs and travel groups for support. More help coming from India, tell anyone you can to hold on.
Peace and courage to everyone there.
Word from local rescue teams is that planes and people are being turned away now. The infrastructure here cannot support so many people. Donating cash to a reputable charity that will put it to good use is a much better alternative than just lending two hands. At least for anyone who isn’t already here. Thanks Shikha for spreading the word 🙂
Oh crap! I had no idea you were in Nepal. So glad you’re in once piece. When something like this happens do they locals want you to leave and let them get on with it or is it better for them if you hang around and at least spend your money with the local businesses still open? I always wonder this whenever I see a natural disaster and now you can tell me first hand!
I’m sure it’s a mixture of both, especially depending on the type of tourist. Those looky-loos, who only show up to snap ruin porn and offer no assistance or support to the locals affected, I’m sure most everyone (myself included) wishes they wouldn’t come around. But the others, those who are buying fresh foods from local vendors and small family shops instead of anything chain or too big, those who are giving blood and volunteering their time, those who are showing compassion…I’m sure we are welcome. This last week I haven’t done a single transaction or started a single conversation with someone new WITHOUT first asking how they and there family are.
When I first heard about the earthquake, I did not think it was anything major. I figured it was just something in the mountains that affected only a few until I got on Facebook and saw a post from a friend who works for the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu. Glad that him and his family are safe and glad you made it unscathed. Great to see you helping out both in person and online by letting people know how to help. I did my part by donating from PayPal.
Yeah, lots of people underestimated the damage here. And lots, like you, also did their part to help in whatever way, shape or form they could. So thank y’all for that. This just happened to be mine.
As far as updates from here, the monsoon season has begun early. It’s rained seven (or eight?) of the last eight days. Landslides have begun and people are already being killed and going missing. All relief efforts now are focused on housing and other integral structures, like schools and the occasional hospital. But there are also widespread problems too, from a new 45% import tariff on assorted relief materials, banks increasing their ATM fees to $5 a withdrawal, vast amounts of government corruption, missing money and donated supplies from other countries, and growing dissent and upset with the government with locals in the cities and the villages. It’s not getting pretty, and I plan on being quite blunt about it in my next post (or maybe the one after, depending on how soon I can sort through photos).
Hi Derek, I’ve been referred to you through Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith. Me and my partner are wanting to head over to Nepal in Mid-end May to do volunteer work, hopefully with earthquake recovery stuff. Just wondering if you had some helpful tips/hints that could help us volunteer with a good organisation that is authentic & will give us the right type of experience. Your pictures & travel experiences sound amazing. Thanks in advance for any information you can give us 🙂 Lui & James
Hey Lui, yes I can definitely help. Recovering efforts are still ongoing there now that winter is over. Have a good friend I worked with who over ten years ago founded and still runs her own NGO. Not big enough to be a symbol of all those “good” charities doing bad things by paying “volunteers” or misusing donations in any one of a thousand devious ways, but not so small that it doesn’t make any impact at all. She will be returning at the end of March and should still be there by the time y’all arrive. Give me a shout back (you can either comment or respond directly to this email) and we can discuss more.
For more information on Nepal now, also check out my post on Life In Nepal Post-Quake if you haven’t already. It even includes a short 2-min video chronicling the work that is going on there and what still needs to be done.
Oh and the names Jane and Duncan sound vaguely familiar Lui (or maybe I am just fooling myself because I do meet so many people in my line of work) but from the way you mentioned them, I’m assuming that they met me while I was there, yeah? Would be curious to find out more and how they are doing now. Talk more soon 🙂