29 Apr - 5 May 2016 #806

After the aftershocks

One year on, Nepali Times catches up with survivors of the earthquake
Tufan Neupane

Krishna Devi Khadka

Bhabuk Yogi

When her husband left her, Krishna Devi Khadka of Bardia came to Kathmandu to work so she could raise her two little children. She found a job as a cook at a hotel in Gongabu. When the earthquake hit on 25 April she was in the kitchen and the seven-storey building collapsed around her even before she could run to safety. A falling concrete beam trapped her, but also saved her life.  

She could not budge, but heard people shouting above her. She lost consciousness, and woke up in hospital. She was surprised to find out that she had been under the rubble for six days.

Khadka’s uncle Durga Bahadur Thapa came to Kathmandu searching for her, but was not hopeful he would find her alive after seeing the ruin of the hotel. “When she was finally pulled out, I thought she was being born again,” he said. 

Khadka and her children now live with her uncle. “He has always been kind to me, but I do not want to be a burden to him,” she said. “I am trying to learn skills, so I can raise my children.”

Bhabuk Yogi

Priya BK

Priya BK, 15, wanted to follow in her uncle’s footsteps by joining the Nepal Police. She was physically fit, and could outrun all her friends. On 25 April last year, she was washing clothes at a public tap near her rented room in Tarkeswor. She started running away from the tall buildings, but a compound wall collapsed, burying her. She was rescued and taken to hospital where doctors plastered her left leg. She went home the same day, but started feeling unbearable pain. The family took her to hospital again the next day and doctors had to amputate her leg.

Her father, Arjun BK said: “I did not want to see my daughter lose her leg, but I loved her too much to lose her.”  

It took Priya time to learn to live on crutches and prosthetics. She missed her exams, but caught up with help from her friends. But she needs help to go to school, since it is not disabled-friendly.

“The earthquake ruined my dream to become a police officer,” she says. “But I am determined to achieve something in life.”

Amrit Magar

Amrit Magar, 16, was a football star in the making. Playing since childhood in Banke district and in Kathmandu when his parents moved here, he was in the field every chance he got.

When the earthquake hit, the teenager was watching tv at home. His parents had gone out to work. He quickly ran out, but a compound wall collapsed and buried him below waist. He was rushed to hospital by neighbours where doctors plastered the leg and sent him home. But when the pain continued, doctors amputated his leg.

“I was not sad because I lost my leg,” he says. “I was sad because I thought I would never be able to play football again.”

Sanu Maharjan

Sanu Maharjan lost his home to the 25 April earthquake and then his mother to the 12 May aftershock. He was in his shop in Jorpati when the first quake struck and rushed home to Sitapaila to find that it was a heap of rubble. His wife Ganga, son Manish and daughter Manisha were in hospital. They were buried, but rescued alive.

Although he lost his home, Maharjan was glad his family was alive. But then the 7.3 magnitude aftershock of 12 May killed his mother. The family still lives in a tin shelter near the ruins of their house. 

Ramesh Khatri

Pics: Bikram Rai And Gopen Rai

18-year-old Ramesh Khatri of Dailekh was a waiter at a guest house in Balaju, Kathmandu. He had got leave and was to catch a night bus to visit his family on 25 April last year. After lunch, the building started shaking. The floors collapsed, trapping Khatri and his friend Pemba Lama under the rubble.

Khatri was rescued alive 12 hours later. His friend Pemba was also brought out alive six days later. When he woke up on a hospital bed, Khatri could not move. Both his legs had been amputated. “I thought I would be able to walk around in a few days,” he said. “I was not aware I had lost my legs.”

Khatri sacrificed his education to find work to support his family, but the earthquake has now made a job difficult to find. He has not given up, though, and after the earthquake he has participated in a wheel chair race, swimming and wheel chair basketball competitions. He thinks he can make a career out of it.

He says: “The government did not help me, but I am not hopeless. I will devote my life to helping people like me.”

Rishi Khanal

Three days before the earthquake, Rishi Khanal bade farewell to his family in Arghakhanchi and came to Kathmandu to catch his flight to Dubai. A few days before he was to leave, the Gongabu hotel he was staying in collapsed in the earthquake.

The 27-year-old was trapped under the rubble for 82 hours, and drank his own urine to survive. A team of French and APF rescuers brought him out – he lived to tell his tale but lost his leg.

Khanal spent eight months in a hospital in Kathmandu, which he says were as excruciating as the days he spent under the rubble. “I got free treatment, but I was unable to earn to feed my family,” he says. “I am now worried about my son’s future more than my own.”

As Nepal commemorated the first anniversary of the earthquake this week, Khanal was once again in Kathmandu for a hospital follow up. He is still in pain, but wants to learn a skill. He says: “If I get vocational training, I can feed my family even by standing on just one leg.”