By Anil Giri
KATHMADU, April 25: It was a morning like any other. There were a 100 things on my mind, when the awnings of the shops began to shake violently. It took me a while to realise that it was an earthquake.
I just stood rooted to the ground as I saw a building collapse a short distance away. It was then that the magnitude of the quake began to sink in.
At that time, I did not know the intensity of the temblor or the distance from the epicentre, but what I saw made me realise that Nepal was facing a nightmare.
From the rubble of the buildings, one could hear the screams of those who were trapped. They pleaded to be rescued. My heart sank.
People rushed out of their homes and offices and soon a crowd gathered where I was standing. To make matters worse, there were strong aftershocks. People were already panicking and the aftershocks made them run helter-skelter.
Many had prayers on their lips. Some took out their mobile phones and quickly dialled the numbers of their near and dear ones. Those who got through were visibly relieved, but some could not get in touch and tried repeatedly.
My first instinct was to call my office in India and report the big news. But I could not get through. I felt helpless since I was aware that this was the biggest story of the decade.
I was not far away from the historic Dharhara tower, which stood proud over the Kathmandu skyline. The tower, built over 180 years back, was almost gone. Just a stump was left. It had turned to rubble.
I wondered how many people were dead. People were walking around dazed. After what seemed an eternity, some of the rescuers reached the spot and then began the efforts to extricate the injured and find the dead.
Body after body began to come out of the tower that once stood nine storeys high. Later, the army and police personnel helped out.
It was much later in the day that I learnt almost 180 bodies had been recovered. People spoke in hushed tones as bodies were brought out. Officials said that there could be more bodies inside.
By afternoon, my phone had begun to ring continuously. The news was ominous. There were reports of deaths across Nepal, more so in Kathmandu. Very little information was coming out of the quake epicentre Lamjung.
Officials told me that the communication system had collapsed in and around Lamjung district.
Even though I was emotiolly shattered, I had to do my duty. I was on and off in touch with my office in India where the concern was intense. I phoned in my stories as all other means of communication had broken down. Even the phone connection was intermittent.
The day is not yet over. Bodies are still being found. The injured are still being brought to hospitals. The toll is rising almost by the minute.
My country is devastated — from the worst earthquake in decades. How will it ever recover? IANS