An Interview with Angeline Davies – Survivor of the April 25 Earthquake
Sandwiched between China in the north and India on all other sides, Nepal is nestled in the Himalayas and home to eight out of ten of the world’s highest mountains, including Mount Everest with its 8,848 meters, the highest summit on earth. Mt. Everest is, of course, a magnet for ambitious climbers who come from all over the world to test their mettle against this force of nature.
On 25 April, the worst natural disaster since the earthquake of 1934 struck Nepal with a quake having a surface magnitude of 8.1. This first tremor killed 9,000 people and injured another 23,000. The initial earthquake triggered an avalanche on Everest, killing 19 climbers. April 25 became the deadliest day ever on the mountain. Yet another major quake hit on 12 May, killing a further 200 and injuring 2,500.
Centuries-old buildings, many of which were UNESCO World Heritage sites, were destroyed in Kathmandu, the country’s capital. Major aftershocks, including one reaching a magnitude of 6.7 on 26 April, kept the population terrorized. Landslides and avalanches were a constant risk.
A lot of the immediate media coverage concentrated on the endangered foreign climbers. In reality, it is the deaths and injuries among the local population and the destruction of their homes and livelihoods that should have commanded attention. Now, almost five months later, help is needed urgently as the mountain winter will soon close in.
In July, the British climber Angeline Davies started her own private campaign to help the Nepalese who unselfishly helped her and her friends to safety. As a GoFundMe project, Angeline has so far raised € 1,000 to channel directly to them. https://www.gofundme.com/z42hek
Hers is part of a wider campaign to help in Nepal. The following link gives you the bigger picture. In less than two months, over $6.3M have been raised across 1,487 campaigns, from over 77,000 donors.
Angeline kindly agreed to an interview about her Nepal experience.
Where were you when the earthquake struck on April 25? What was your first reaction / thought (if you remember it!)?
We were lucky. We had reached Base Camp on the 23rd and left the area the day before the earthquake. On the 25th, we had just left the temple at Pangding, and were heading down the Everest trail towards Khumjung, where we were due to stop for the night and meet up with my friend, who had had to abandon his Everest Base Camp (at 5,364 m.) attempt due to illness and altitude sickness.
The path was on the top of a hill, so there were no rocks above us to fall on us, and the ground was fairly open, rather than clinging to the edge of the side of a mountain, as many of them are. I remember the weather was awful, so we couldn’t see very far in front of us. At first we thought that someone was throwing stones at us, then the ground started to tremble, and an old wall collapsed in front of us. My friend and I were on a small wooden bridge, and we pulled each other back to safe ground, then had to dodge a panicking yak.
It went on for a long time, the ground was swaying as if we were on a boat in a storm, but faster. There was nowhere to run to; something inside me told me to just wait it out. A few seconds after it stopped, we heard a massive noise like a landslide. We thought that it must be the path behind us, but days later realised it must have been the avalanche at base camp. To be honest, my first thought was that Nepal must be seismic, so a tremor like that must be fairly common, though I did think that this one was pretty impressive. We had no idea of the destruction it had caused until we carried on.
Further down the trail we started to pass signs of damage. First of all, the path had gone completely in many places, making it necessary to cling to rocks on the side of the mountain in order to climb across. There are many suspension bridges crossing rivers on the trail, and about an hour after the initial earthquake, I was crossing one of these, and I actually turned round in order to shout at the silly person behind me to tell them to stop jumping up and down, but there was no one there. That was our first after shock, and these just kept on coming.
Once we reached areas of habitation, we realised that something was seriously wrong. Walls, and in some cases, houses had fallen across the track, everyone was outside, looks of terror on their faces, too scared to venture back into the crumbling buildings. Not one building we passed had escaped damage, but nearly all were still standing.
Were you injured or were the people around you injured?
None of us were injured. Incredibly, considering the damage to the houses, few people at all were injured. In Khumjung, the most serious injury was a broken arm. There is a hospital in neighbouring Khunde, but once they had established that injuries were few, the two doctors left to help their families in their own villages. They left one health worker, an old Sherpa, who had been trained by the Himalayan Trust, who fund the hospital, to deal with most minor accidents and illnesses. The hospital collapsed in the second earthquake.
As we experienced more and more aftershocks, the houses became more dangerous to live in. Most people slept outside under tarpaulins, or tents if they were lucky. The first night after the earthquake, it snowed! When given the choice between deadly danger, and being cold, I’m afraid I took the danger, but we were constantly having to leap up and run outside as soon as we felt or heard a rattling. For months after, I would jump in the air if someone put a tea spoon down on the table too loudly!
One of the worst things about the aftershocks (and we had some big ones – there was one that measured 6.7 on the 26th April), is the rumbling noise, followed by a short silence, then screams. That is something I will never forget: the terror that these poor people experienced daily, and are still experiencing.
…Stay tuned for the next chapter of Angeline’s interview.