10-16 June 2016 #812

Singati, 12 May 2015

Bishal Shivakoti

Sara A Medina / USMC
Sara A Medina took this one last photograph (top) of the people in Singati with Bishal Shivakoti standing at left.

It was the morning of 12 May 2015 and I was rummaging through the ruins of my house in Singati that had been destroyed in the 25 April earthquake. I was salvaging what timber and bricks I could use for a temporary shelter. Suddenly the ground started shaking, and I leapt out into the garden.

Buildings were collapsing, the mountains were coming down all around us with a frightening roar, and clouds of brown dust billowed in the sky. Many of the buildings in the market by the road that had been damaged in the previous earthquake had all fallen down.

I helped dig out a neighbour's mother, and with the help of some policemen we pulled out alive two other people from the ruins of collapsed buildings in Chitre. Near the bridge over the Tama Kosi, a four-storey block had come down, trapping 20 people. I heard that up the road in Kattike a team that was distributing relief material to the survivors of the previous earthquake was itself hit by a huge rockfall, burying at least 40 people.

The ground still shook from time to time, sending more boulders the size of houses crashing down to the river below. I ran back to my house, where the chicken coop had been damaged. I gathered up all our chickens, and had just locked them up again when there was a deafening thud-thud of a helicopter overhead.

It was the biggest helicopter I’d ever seen, a huge grey-coloured thing that came down and landed on a corn terrace. It kicked up a whole lot of dust and the wind sent debris flying around, wounding a few people.

Bishal today.

The helicopter kept its engines running, and two Nepal Army soldiers got off. One of them had a rifle and stood by, guarding the landing site. The other young soldier asked me to bring in the seriously wounded so they could be airlifted out. The two people we had helped rescue from Chitre, one of them named Shiva, were nearest to me and we carried them into the helicopter.

My aunt Sabitri Shivakoti had been hit by flying debris that the helicopter threw up when landing, and she was lying on the ground. I assisted her into the helicopter. There were other Nepal Army soldiers from the nearby Laduk unit who had come for the rescue, and they helped out.

I could see the Americans in black helmets walking under the moving rotors, and one of them was talking into a microphone wired to the side of the helicopter. Padam Sherpa from Gyache arrived, carrying the wounded Airam Surel towards the helicopter, but the American signalled to him that the aircraft was already full, and he could be taken on the next trip.

The helicopter took off again with a loud noise and wind like a hurricane, and I ran off to Katike where the rockfall had buried many people, to see if I could help.

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