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Nepal earthquake 2015

'There are no houses left': Nepal struggles to deal with aftermath of earthquake

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 5:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 April, 2015, 1:15pm

The city is calm under an overcast sky. But there is an eerie feeling. There are hardly any vehicles on the streets and only a few grocery shops are open. People huddle on corners recalling "the big one" as they look at newspapers splashed with images of death, despair and destruction.

Many of them liken the scale of the damage to the city's infamous 1934 earthquake, recalling their grandparents' stories and old photographs.

Suddenly, the calm is broken as an aftershock - one of more than 60 - rattles the capital.

The previous night, hours after the earthquake hit, the streets were packed with residents, many camping outside their houses or in any open space they could find, in case another struck. In fact, most people spent the night under the open sky, shocked and traumatised, and praying it would not rain.

Hundreds formed queues to get inside Tundikhel and Khula Manch, two of the main open spaces in central Kathmandu, some bringing food and groceries as neighbours set up communal kitchens.

Together they listened to grim updates from the state-run Radio Nepal, as callers described the ruins. Some villages, they said, were completely flattened.

Sujan Giri, who works at a restaurant in Kathmandu, managed to get hold of his parents hours after the earthquake.

"In my village in Sindhupalchowk district, there are no houses left," he said.

The hospitals were yesterday beginning to overflow with patients. At Bir hospital, a public facility in central Kathmandu, beds were being brought out into the street to treat patients.

Most of the old houses made of brick and mud have been destroyed. Some concrete houses, including Kathmandu's high-rise apartments and malls, have survived with minor cracks. But one of the biggest blows for the ancient city has been the damage to its cultural heritage.

Centuries-old temples and palaces are no longer standing. The multi-storeyed Hindu temples in Kathmandu Durbar Square, a world heritage site, have been completely wiped out.

In their place are an army of bulldozers, deployed to clear the area of rubble.

In close proximity, the nine-storey Dharahara tower has also been razed.

In Freak Street, popular with hippie tourists, residents worry about their loved ones, some of whom remain stuck inside.

For Tanka Bahadur Dani, it has been an agonising wait for help. Like many of the houses that had fallen, his was also made of mud.

"My wife is still stuck inside the house," he says. "I hope she is all right."