On the Saturday, our team were in three groups. Grahame was in the main church in Kathmandu, I was in the little village of Dolalghat, with most of the team, and Ian and Leann Buckley (who have just moved to Kathmandu and will be living at Dolaghat for the next 5 years) went on to Sangharchok, another little village about half an hour away. The quake hit at 11.55 just as church was finishing. The main church in Kathmandu is a single story building with about 400 plus people inside. Everyone got out safely and went to an open field nearby, away from buildings and power lines.
The church that most of us were in we call the loft church. It is perched on the edge about 30 feet high above the river. It is a flimsy building at the best of times, of bricks and old wood. To get inside there is a very steep flight of wooden stairs almost like a ladder. Then through a narrow doorway into this little loft room. It was packed with maybe 50 -60 people. We always said it was a death trap if there was a fire, never thinking of an earthquake. We were just ready to leave, when the whole building began heaving. We only stayed on our feet because there were so many of us. There was a frantic dash for the door and the narrow stairs. The adrenaline kicks in and it all seems a bit of a dream. It is hard to imagine that it is actually happening. Anyway, we all made it out, amid the falling bits of concrete, dirt and bits of wood. We were then all out on the street. Some of the houses were already just a pile of rocks on the road. In front of the church was a hill, and all down the street swaying electric light wires, with the river at the back. Then a second big one hit, 6.6 on the scale. The road was rocking and we grouped together and prayed. When that settled down we headed for the river bed. At least, there was a clear area where there would be no falling rocks, houses or power lines. The whole village were down there. Fortunately it is the dry season, otherwise the river would have been full. As we sat there, the ground kept rocking with many aftershocks. We were never sure if another really big one would come. People would scream and cry. We were told a little baby had been killed by falling bricks.
Ian and Leann were in the basement of their building where the little church meets. As the quake hit, Ian was thrown off his feet, and everyone frantically tried to get out. The building was falling down on one wall. Leann couldn't get out so she just got on her knees and prayed. A couple of ladies clung to her and they rode it out till the shaking stopped. Everyone got out , but there was terrible devastation on the street. People had been killed, badly injured and walking around dazed. Because our van was there driving the team out from Kathmandu, it was loaded with the worst wounded, to try to get them to a hospital..No on knew if the mountain road out was even open or safe. Ian and Leann got out of the van where we were on the river bed and the wounded were taken to get help. We were five hours waiting with the village folk, wondering if the van would be back. It was late in the day and we thought we might be sleeping out in the open that night. The van returned late afternoon and the driver had to wash out the blood from the van before we could get in. The seats were stained with blood and we sat on plastic bags.
The road was strewn with rocks and rubble sliding down the mountain. We thankful to God that we were all safe and we had a wonderful driver who had taken the wounded and then driven an hour and half back to get us. He could have decided not to endanger himself for our sakes. He skilfully navigated the narrow road and we felt confident with him. We passed the big brick factory on the way home and all the big chimneys from the firing of bricks had broken off. When we got to Kathmandu, the big wide highway that the Chinese had built must have been waving around like waves. It had collapsed in places and we had to drive through like off road driving without the four wheel drive. We arrived home to our guesthouse in tact.
There were constant aftershocks, our big strong building rocking around. One of our hostels was damaged beyond inhabiting again, so we have 65 little girls living in the demountable building in the grounds of the guest house.
On the second day i was at hostel 4 making sure the girls sponsored from Australia were OK when what sounded like a freight train coming down the lane sent all the girls into a panic and the neighbours ran from everywhere to the clearing in front of the hostel.
As the surrounding buildings were rocking and rolling and the girls were crying and screaming we decided to move the girls to the river about 20 minutes walk away. We lined them up with an older girl in front and marched them off 12 at a time. One girl was having a panic attack and was hyperventilating and we had to pray for her and calm her down before putting her between the house father and mother on the motor bike and taking her to the river. Once they were there Kushal and I went off on the bike to find plastic and underlay to make a temporary shelter.
We were putting the finishing touches (pegs holding the strips of plastic together when it began to rain.
They spent the night on the river bank. Some of our team stayed there with them through the night for protection.
On Wednesday we visited the wholesalers and purchased rice and dhal for the hostels which was stock piled in the Guesthouse. On Thursday I visited Thamel to see our friend Keshav and his family as I had not been able to reach him by phone or email and Friday, along with 25 Nepalese young people set out for Sangarchok district to distribute 2 school buses full of rice and noodles. This was a dangerous mission as the day before people lay on the road and would not allow the army to pass with 2 truckloads of rice until they dropped off enough for their village. People can get very persuasive when their families are hungry.
The next day the team went to the epicentre with 2 more buses full of rice and noodles. Because Robyn and I were flying out that evening for Australia I stayed behind. Ian, Tahlia and a representative from Metamorphic joined the team. Raju is a very effective leader in a time of crisis.
Robyn and Grahame