When the ground shook on Tuesday morning, journalist Om Astha Rai in Nepal’s Dharan town did not think much, brushing it off as one of the countless aftershocks which have been rocking the Himalayan country since April 25’s killer temblor.
But when the intensity of the tremors grew, he was quick to realise that “this” could be as big as last month’s massive earthquake which left over 8000 dead.
“We did not run away initially. But then, we knew it was a big one. It lasted for quite long,” said Rai, who is a journalist with The Nepali Times.
Realising that the intensity was much more than an aftershock, Rai immediately ran out of his house.
“We rushed outside. But even then we could feel the ground shaking violently. I found it hard to stand upright and almost fell to the ground,” added Rai.
Tuesday’s 7.3-magnitude earthquake killed at least 22 people and injured hundreds of others in Nepal besides sending strong ripples across large parts of India.
Rai said that as soon as the temblor hit the capital, panicky people ran out to the streets while dazed birds flew aimlessly all over the sky
As phone lines were jammed after the tremors, Abhaya Raj Joshi -- a resident of Kathmandu -- texted to this correspondent, “The shaking was as bad as the ‘big one’. It shook for a long time.”
Joshi added, “We thought it was like a minor aftershock, but this turned out to be a big one. People are calling in to Radio Nepal saying that scientists had assured that aftershocks would not be big.”
According to initial reports, Tuesday’s earthquake caused much damage in Chautara, the district headquarters of Sindhupalchowk, which was the worst affected district in the April 25 earthquake.
Vanda Lengkong, an Indonesian relief worker stationed in Chautara told HT on microblogging site Twitter that panic and trauma spread far and wide in entire Sindhupalchowk.
“People are still outside, trying to stay together with their relatives. I can see how panic and traumatised they are,” she said.
She said that the fresh tremors aggravated the havoc that the last earthquake had caused.
“From where I am standing now, I can see few buildings have collapsed. They are the buildings already damaged two weeks ago,” she said.
Tuesday’s temblor came at a time when Nepal had already completed a significant amount of relief work and was focusing on rebuilding the country.
Rai feels that the devastation caused by the latest temblor would act as a spoiler on the good work.
“I think focus will now be shifted again to rescue and relief for a while which means reconstruction works will be delayed. Fortunately, some international rescue missions have not left Nepal as yet,” said Rai.
“At present 12 countries, including India, still have their military teams in Nepal and, we rely on them for rescue works. Situation could have turned worse had all these relief and rescue teams left Nepal,” he added.
Experts have said that this strong aftershock exposes once again the seismic volatility of the Himalayan region and is a harbinger for authorities to be prepared for the worst.
“This aftershock is like hitting an already crippled man,” said Anirban Chakraborty, a research scholar at the Disaster Prevention and Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan.
“The entire sub-continent region seems to be in some kind of upheaval. Right after the massive quake in Nepal, there were quakes in Andaman and northeast India as well. This doesn’t seem to end any sooner,” added Chakraborty.
(The writer tweets at @saha_abhi1990 )