Nepal Earthquake – Mila’s Story
I interrupt regularly scheduled catching-up-on-India blogging to let everyone know that we are both safe.
A 7.9 earthquake hit Nepal yesterday at noon local time. I was attending class in our “yoga hall” – a structure of such sound architecutre that one of entire side of the room is freshly laid brick with a sign reading: “Do Not Lean on the Wall.” As soon as the rumbling started, one of the women yelled “Terremoto!” and ran for the door. The rest of us quickly followed. As a Californian, I am trained to stand in a doorway or to find a sturdy table, but in this building (where the mortar between the freshly-laid bricks was coming down around us) it seemed much safer to be outside. The tremor lasted somewhere between one and two minutes – longer than any quake I’d experienced in CA. Standing on the lawn in my bare feet, I could feel the ground move up and down like a waterbed or a bouncy castle, and I could hear glass breaking and people screaming.
Once the ground stopped shaking and we realized we hadn’t been swallowed by the earth, we began sharing our reactions. When I first heard the noise, I thought we were being buzzed by a helicopter. The Dutch physical therapist thought that the noise was a train (and laughed when she was reminded that there is not a single train in Nepal). The Lebanese interior designer thought it was a bomb. We each have our own context.
As soon as I coulld, I ran back inside the questionable hall to get my phone and was fortunate to be able to reach Dmitry almost immediately. He was in the small village of Kabeni – more than 100 miles away from meand further from the epicenter – when the quake hit. Phone lines were jammed, but we were able to chat each other and even to speak briefly using WhatsApp. It was a huge relief to be able to hear his voice so quickly and know that he was fine.
I feel incredibly lucky to be safe and that those I love are all accounted for. This was made all the more clear by another woman in my program, whose fiance was hiking Everest. Avalanches there wiped out entire sections ofthe Base Camp and there have been multiple casualties. Waiting with her to hear from her fiance was heart-wrenching, and I cried along with her: first when we heard that he was safe, and again when we heard that one of his climbing team had died.
I spent the rest of the day outside with the students in my program, bracing as tremor after tremor struck. When I counted this morning, the USGS site had recorded 32 quakes over 2.5 in Nepal since noon Saturday. I think I have felt every one.
I’m very impressed with the Hotel Tulsi in Pokhara, where the program is being held. Despite the tremors, all meals are still being served hot and on time, though we are now eating picnic-style on the lawn rather than in the fifth floor dining area. They even put out mattresses, blankets, and pillows for the students and staff that wanted to sleep outside last night (I chose to sleep in my room – I figured that if the 7.9 quake had only knocked down my toiletries, the building would likely stand through the night).
The epicenter was only about 50 miles away, but, in the touristy area of Pokhara where I am staying, I have not seen much damage. Businesses are still open and tourists are still wandering the streets (though far fewer this morning than there were yesterday).
Dmitry is sporadically in touch – I heard from him around 9 this morning – but he is in places that would have spotty coverage under the best of circumstances. He is currently mountain biking the rest of the way back to me from the town of Jomsom where he spent the night. He had estimated 4-5 days to reach Pokhara, but I’ve requested that he hurry as much as posssible.
As I was writing this, we had another major aftershock, a 6.7. We are gathered on the lawn again, trying to stay in good spirits and singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody.