Two days later, fear still grips Kathmandu

By Gaurav Sharma,

Kathmandu : There is palpable fear on the streets of quake-hit Kathmandu.

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Groups of residents — women and children in particular — huddle in small groups on pavements and in grounds, afraid to return to their homes because of continuing and frightening aftershocks.

Most are exchanging notes on what has hit Nepal. A few are cooking meals or making tea in the open.

“There is no way I am going back to my house,” said a young mother who gave her name as Kalpana. “I cannot get over what happened on Saturday. I will stay put outside till I know for sure that we are safe.”

Another couple told IANS how their house shook violently when the 7.9 magnitude earthquake ravaged Nepal on Saturday, throwing one of them off the bed.

“For a moment we were startled,” said the man, who gave his name as Gurung. “We were on the first floor and made a dash for safety. But it was not easy getting out because the house kept shaking.

“We repeatedly bumped our heads against the wall while going down the stairs,” he said.

In Kathmandu’s Thamel area, a favourite with tourists, hundreds of foreign tourists have fled their hotels, some paying as much as 80,000-90,000 Nepal rupees (up to $880) to get a flight out of the country.

The few who have stayed back are sleeping in the hotel lobbies, the memories of the Saturday disaster preventing them from returning to their rooms.

When they do, they do so for a few minutes.

Getting out of Kathmandu is not proving easy either. The Kathmandu international airport was first shut for some hours on Saturday and again on Sunday after deadly aftershocks rattled the air traffic control.

Several hundreds of foreigners, Indians included, are camping outside the airport, hoping to get on a flight.

“(Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has said all Indians will be evacuated. We are waiting for that to happen,” an Indian man told IANS in the airport premises.

Many of the Indians at the airport are from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengaluru and Kolkata, a few who spoke to IANS said.

“We have run out of money,” a woman said. “We are waiting for IAF (Indian Air Force planes).”

Many ATMs in the capital have been crippled by the quake.

Kathmandu’s streets were on Monday devoid of any civilian traffic barring the few taxis that charged up to Rs.4,000 for a 2-3 kilometre ride.

Few can afford that. Petrol or diesel has become scarce.

Much of Kathmandu is also without electricity. All internet lines appear to have collapsed.

With schools, colleges and courts shut, and government offices almost non-functional (some have suffered cracks), there is no place to go for the locals.

Some of the known tourist landmarks have turned into near ruins, their otherwise imposing structures brought down by the powerful temblor which has also injured more than 6,000 people.

“This is something I don’t want to ever see again,” said a young American tourist who was in the city centre when the earthquake struck.

“When you see buildings collapse like a pack of cards, it numbs you,” the man added. “It was really, really scary.”