Now that the dust has settled down and that my parents are not worrying anymore, I thought it could be as good time as any to give more details about how I’ve lived the earthquake of May 12th while in the district of Sindhupalchowk. I was in a village documenting a food and tarps distribution with CECI when the earthquake estimated at 7.4 on Richter scale shook the ground at Banepa, about 20 km away from me.
Even if it was not as bad as the first one (7.8), it was a much more difficult and risky experience for me as I was on my way to Pokhara during the first one, away from any risk or damages. What made it worse was the risk of landslides as we were near the mountains and also the continuous shaking that ensued. As many as 6 important ones (between 5.0 and 6.5) occurred that day and the following night in the region and countless smaller but still dangerous ones made things worse. I’ll let the images speak for themselves but I want to warn you that there won’t be any graphic content (and I’m glad that there isn’t) but I will sometimes allow myself some funny comments and joke (at least I consider them funny) because that is one thing that impressed me; people were still laughing, even during the earthquake. People were still making jokes about it even when being scared because you kind of need it. I mean, you can either cry or laugh about the situation, most were laughing and I think it helps to cope.
I also want to say that my goal of telling the story is to inform about the reality of these events and to show a different, more personal side than what you will see on the media. I do not want to sound melodramatic or like the tough adventurous photographer. I will tell the events as I lived them.
Once again a perfect example of Nepalese people kindness; a ceremonial red scarf and a red dot. I'm still sure it protected me during the day!
Is it shaking? Oh shit yes it is! It often starts quite low and intensifies gradually. I did not have time to think about framing or anything, I was just pressing the shutter while running and this is the very first image I took.
As you come to realize, even if there are soldiers, local people, NGO workers, governmental workers, no one really knows what to do or where to go and it takes a while for any decision to be taken. After a while, it was clear that it was impossible to take the car again and we had to walk/run to reach the nearest town to be able to have cellphone network and organize a pick-up from Kathmandu to get back.
In the end, we were told that a car was coming to pick us up so we waited on the side of the road while it was getting dark. I put my cameras in the bag when it became to dark to shoot. Even if the worst was over, it was still quite dangerous as we were close to a hill and the aftershocks were still going on and risking to send some landslides on our way. Waiting in the dark also made us hard for the incoming cars to see us and when a bus came by, we took it to get anywhere further to our potential pick up place. At this point, I had lost any hope of sleeping in my bed in Kathmandu for the night but while in the bus we saw our pick-up car went by and immediatly stopped the bus! It was such a a nice reunion to see everyone from the NGO CECI and to realize that it was over and that the night would be spent in Kathmandu. Hell, we even had cookies! I did not eat anything for the whole day besides some chana (little bit less than 20 small chick peas) in the morning and walked for more than 5 hours but was still not hungry when I got home. I was not even that tired because of the adrenaline rush and as many as 3 big aftershocks kept me awake for the whole night.
Was I afraid? Yes of course, my life was in danger and I had to run to keep it. I really wanted to keep it as I quite like my life you know. Did I panic? Nope, and I was pretty proud not to. It's one thing to be afraid and it's another to panic, I kept my head cool and I was glad I did. Did I regret traveling and being there? For one second when it was shaking I asked myself the question. If I knew at the beginning of the day what would happen, would I had changed my mind? The answer was No. I would have made the same things, taken the same pictures and went on the trip. I like traveling, I like living all these adventures and theses risks are necessary. I will continue to do it as always but next time, I'll bring some cookies and water tabs with me.
A huge huge thank you to Marcel Monette from CECI that was an important support during this very long day. He was also my personal photographer for the day as all the pictures of myself are taken by him, merci infiminent Marcel! Who knew earthquakes were a good way to make such good and important friends. Earthquakes will never be the same without you Marcel.