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Nation sleeps out in open, aftershocks add to misery

By Joseph Nathan,

Kathmandu : Almost everyone spent the night outside as tremors kept hitting Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and most of the Himalayan nation throughout the night and Sunday morning.

As the country was coming to grips with Saturday’s destruction, another powerful quake or aftershock hit Nepal at 12.54 p.m. on Sunday, raising fears of further devastation. The epicentre of Sunday’s tremblor was at Kodari, 110 km from here.

All across the streets and playgrounds, makeshift arrangements were made overnight by people to spend the night out in the open. Collapsed buildings and houses bore testimony to the devastation wreaked by the 7.9 magnitude earthquake which struck Lamjung, about 75 km from here.

The Tundikhel ground in Kathmandu, used for largescale meetings in good times, was taken over by Kathmandu’s residents with tents, mattresses and bedsheets jostling for space to accomodate hundreds.

Similar is the condition at Dasharat Stadium.

No one appeared to trust the four walls of their homes, seeing the enormous devastation all around them as aftershocks continued late into the night and early Sunday morning.

Mild tremors were felt intermittently all across the city. At around 5 a.m., a 5.5 magnitude aftershock rudely shook up several areas, disturbing people who had very little sleep in the night.

As the authorities grappled with the problem of restoring power, which was cut as a precaution to avoid electrocution, it would be a while before people come to terms with the devastation that spread out in minutes after the earthquake struck at 11.41 a.m. on Saturday.

Many of the sub-stations bore the brunt of the quake though most of the bigger power distribution structures were intact. Power supply officials said they will restore supply in two or three days in a staggered manner.

Police and soldiers were out in big numbers throughout the night, trying to extricate people who could be rescued. They were also bringing out bodies of those who did not survive as the buildings collapsed.

The hospital all across the valley were overwhelmed with the number of injured. Doctors and nurses worked round the clock to help save those who were brought there.

The widespread devastation that has hit the Nepal capital and other areas has disproportionately affected the older buldings, sparing most of the newer ones.

Almost every old building in the valley came crashing down. Most of the new concrete buildings stand undisturbed, with collapsed structures around them.

Some of the newer but badly constructed buildings developed major cracks but the structures withheld.

Darbar Marg, the tourist hub of Kathmandu, seems to have escaped with only minor damage.

The famed Pashupatinath temple was intact and so was the five-storey Shiva temple in Bhaktapur, a Unesco heritage site. But several temples in Lalitpur, Hanumandhoka and other places were levelled.

Five-star hotels along the Durbar Marg were safe though several swimming pools of the big hotels were drained out or ejected water because of the temblor.

(Joseph Nathan is the Editorial Director of the Kathmandu-based Himalayan Times.)