With all the energy I could muster I screamed and ran to the door that led out to the lawns. Stones and cement blocks were falling. Those few seconds are an hazy to me but my colleagues tell me that my screaming ‘run run’ jolted them into sprinting out.
I was in Nepal for a workshop when the first earthquake hit. I was exiting the hotel washroom as the lights went out and the earth began to shake in a way that tosses you around. Trying to walk in complete darkness I made my way to where I hoped others were. A colleague took cover by a wall. I held on to him as he held on to another. We thought it was a terrorist attack, but soon it was clear it was a massive quake. With all the energy I could muster I screamed and ran to the door that led out to the lawns. Stones and cement blocks were falling. Those few seconds are an hazy to me but my colleagues tell me that my screaming ‘run run’ jolted them into sprinting out.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>We reached the lawns and sprawled ourself on our stomachs, trying to balance ourselves. Strong aftershocks continued as more guests ran out. We were now cut off from the Internet and phone lines. As the lawns were close to the building, and unsafe, we were escorted to the tennis grounds. We camped there for six hours as the staff brought us whatever food they had — cakes, pastries — and water, though the they too were injured. The kitchen staff had suffered cuts and bled profusely. Those injured were soon treated. The tremors continued but we were safe.Around six it got cold and looked like rain. The hotel manager announced that we could shift to the lobby. Making our way inside, we saw the damage for the first time. Walls and ceilings had cracked open. The ground was split in places and tiles had come off.We still did not know the extent of damage outside and could only speculate. Initially, we heard 300 people were dead in Kathmandu, the Dharahara was destroyed along with Bhaktapur Durbar Square, both places I was hoping to visit the next day. We ran up to our rooms to get essential stuff, blankets and pillows. I saw the staircases and corridors were all damaged with big cracks on walls. It was very scary, especially as aftershocks occurred every hour. I frantically tried to call home. Finally, I got an Internet connection and could inform people I was safe.Of course, we also raided the mini bar.The tremors continued and with each we felt the worst would happen now. Sleeping was difficult because of all the motion sickness we felt. It is not possible to take a nap when you have to be prepared to run out any moment. Many slept with shoes on. Around midnight some of us decided that sleeping out in the lawns would be a better as we wouldn’t have to run. However, strong aftershocks started again. At times I did not know if was my mind playing games. But then the birds started chirping and dogs howling before each quake.It started to rain, forcing us inside with all our luggage. All this while I tried calling or messaging but network services were not available. News of death and destruction was reaching us with reports that more earthquakes were expected. Now and then the Internet would work for five minutes and we would all try to send across messages. While trying to sleep and simultaneously remain alert, big tremors occurred, lasting 2-3 seconds shaking everything in the lobby, making children cry and distressing parents. With each aftershock people would wake up harried and run to the exit, only to realise it is over and they should stay put. Panic thrived in the uncertainty that night. The next day I left for the airport with four others, around 12;30 pm, as news about another predicted earthquake came in. The airport which was chaotic, choked and a complete mess. We got into a snail-paced queue for check-in when the second quake hit. Some airline staffers ran away. I was terrified as my mind rushed and my heart beat faster. If the walls and ceiling gave way we would be rapped and if panic set in there would be a stampede. In both scenarios there was no way to reach the exit in time. We tried to stand still, holding on to our luggage as the building and people swayed. A few seconds later the lights went out. Some passengers panicked and ran for the exit. My heart was beating painfully hard. There was nowhere to run in the small airport. When one feels they’re facing death, priorities are clear. I called home but it didn’t connect. I left a message on my phone that read “I love you all”. Finally, I reached a friend and, feeling a silent panic taking over. asked him to tell my family that I loved them. I felt that in those few second it could all be over. But the tremors subsided and I could speak speak to my sister and my mom who was near tears. A European passenger in a parallel queue saw me hiding my tears behind my glasses. He silently gestured to me that all would be fine. I nodded and smiled back. Strangers had been making such small gestures throughout and it made all the difference.
As we got through the security check, it looked as if all flights were suspended and the airport non-operational for the day. Thousands of passengers were waiting, in the lounge, and outside near the runway. We saw a huge Indian Air Force plane, which we heard had just landed. There was much confusion over who would be allowed to board this flight, till the officials assured us all would be taken. After waiting in the queue to the aircraft for seven hours, we were allowed to board at 7:30pm. The injured, the elderly and the children were given preference. Some 325 people were accommodated, most sitting on the spiked floor. Some instructions and an hour and a half later we arrived in Delhi. My luggage is still in Nepal and I should receive it soon. I hope normalcy is restored and families of those who died have the strength to live through.