Fear revisited the Nepalese capital on Tuesday when a powerful earthquake unleashed horrid memories of death and destruction caused by a cataclysmic quake on April 25.
The fresh quake did not deliver a knockout punch like the previous one but some people here almost thought it was the last day of their lives as buildings shook violently and streets brimmed with frightened survivors.
Hemanta Khatri, a 47-year-old who lives in Thimi area on Kathmandu’s outskirts, said, “I wasn’t so petrified when the quake struck on April 25 because then I didn’t know what destruction it would cause. This time, gory images flashed across my mind and I knew what a quake could do.”
Khatri was in the prayer room of his working-class apartment when his building started trembling and people shrieking at the top of their voices ran into the streets.
“I had applied tika to Lord Shiva and was about to do the same to the Ganesha idol when it came. I guess I am alive because of their blessings,” said Khatri, who will be sleeping out in the open along with his family.
The shock and fright triggered by the fresh tremors led the Sinamangal Medical College and Teaching Hospital to move its emergency care set-up to a rectangular patch of open space outside the main building. Survivors, with head injuries and multiple fractures, kept trickling in from affected areas such as Bhaktapur, Dolakha, Sindhupalchowk and Dhading.
Dr Rashmi Thapa said just when life was beginning to return to some semblance of normalcy, Tuesday’s tremors were a grim reminder that “we are at nature’s mercy” and anything could happen anytime.
Refugee camps that had begun emptying out a week ago saw an influx of survivors on Tuesday, with people choosing to abandon the warmth of their homes in favour of safer environs.
Krishna Bastakoti, 37, who has moved to a make-shift camp close to Tribhuvan international airport, said, “The earthquake has ripped open a wound that was beginning to heal. I have no idea what future has in store for me and my family.”
As Kathmandu’s residents dealt with a new nightmare, doctors at an Indian Army field hospital here worked late into the night to move a surgical team to Charikot in Dolakha district where a large number of casualties are feared.
The hospital’s chief, Lieutenant Colonel RK Yadava, said, “We admitted 14 people here on Tuesday, including personnel from the Nepal Armed Police Force. Fear and panic have resurfaced.”
Indian defence attache in Nepal Colonel Manraj Mann said Indian helicopters flew extra sorties to affected areas to bring in as many wounded survivors as possible before nightfall.