Babu Ram, His wife, and daughter on Saturday night. The family is currently sleeping outside due to structural damage with their home. They will relocate to live with extended family while their housing situation is being sorted.
Early Saturday a powerful 7.8 earthquake devastated the country of Nepal. It’s the nation’s worst earthquake in 80 years and has already claimed the lives of more than 5 000 people, injured thousands more and left tens of thousands of people without homes and supplies.
The Internet Society has a Chapter in Nepal and has been working on Internet related projects in the region since 2007.
The following is a conversation with Babu Ram, President of the Internet Society Nepal Chapter, about the events of Saturday.
The conversation was held over instant messaging. All Chapter members are safe, recovering, and looking to help with the rebuilding efforts.
Saturday morning was a very horrible moment to think about. I was preparing for my trip to the United States and had a small meeting at a client’s office before my departure. That was at 10:30 am.
My wife was at home with our 7-month-old daughter. I was speaking to her over the phone when we felt the first tremor.
She said, “Baba bhukamp aayo bhukamp aayo” (Dear – There is an earthquake! There is shock of an earthquake!)
And then the telephone was disconnected. I tried to call her again but failed. We live on the 7th floor of a high-rise apartment.
Right after the first tremor I ran down to my Motorbike and drove home in 20 minutes. I know that probably wasn’t the wisest choice – but I needed to get home.
When I saw my family, my wife cried. I felt so guilty I was not there for my 7-month-old daughter.
People Coming Together
All my neighbours had come out in the open. One man only had his boxer shorts on so I gave him my coat to cover him.
We didn’t have any money on us (all I had was American money in preparation for my trip) and my daughter was only wearing light clothes and we had no food. The shop keeper next door gave us clothes and food. We still haven’t been able to pay for them.
Then I had to call my family. My father is 84 years old and my mother isn’t feeling well. I also have two sisters in Kathmandu and two brothers in native place, Chitwan District. After almost one and a half hours I finally got words from my parents. They also informed me that my sisters were safe.
I couldn’t connect to my brothers in Nepal but thanks to the Internet I was able to get their information via Skype call from another brother who lives in Toronto – who had heard from my brother here and found out they were safe. The magic of the Internet!
When I realized I had an evening flight to the US, I felt really confused what to do at first. My mind couldn’t process. I was not able to contact the airline office to know the status. However, I finally decided to cancel the trip and informed the organizer. And then realized that was the most rational decision I’ve ever made in my life.
Sorting Out that Night
About 5 hours later I was able to get back into my apartment and get some baby food and warm clothes for my daughter. Then we residents had a brief meeting on how to sort out the night. People were scared to enter into our apartments.
There were certain cracks in our building so we cannot sleep at home anymore. Across the city all the space has been open for people. Whether it’s the police headquarters or parliament buildings, all are open. We residents of the apartment collected a few tents and prepared for the nights. We prepared food in open space.
I then shifted to another place nearby at my friend’s house. My friend is with a ground floor house. We go there during the day time and for food but at night my wife, my daughter, and I are sleeping outside.
What It’s Like On the Ground
There are no reports of violence, looting, or crime so far. It is reported that more than 80 percent of houses of Barpak village, which is one of the epicenters, are completely destroyed. Impact of the earthquake is huge outside of Kathmandu. But, the damage is greatest in Kathmandu.
Kathmandu comprises three districts: Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. All the districts were founded 300 years ago and these districts were different small kingdoms then. Now the capital of all those three Kingdoms are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Unfortunately, most of the destruction is in these areas.
Today we’re physically also tired and weak. Mentally, we are recovering slowly. But there are more tremors. Recently, there was another tremor measured 5.1 with epicenter in Indian side, near the eastern border. We have been facing more than 80 tremors that are higher than 4.5.
The Chapter is looking at how it can help.
There are small things to do.
For example, I was asked by the President of the ISP Association to coordinate with the Ministry of Information and Communication to make sure they have a regular supply of fuel for their BTS tower to continue the Internet service.
I was also told that some towers of ISPs and Telecoms have been completely destroyed. We are trying to mobilize the chapter members during this disaster. Our Chapter members are truly diverse. They include bankers, lawyers, media persons, writers, software developers, and technical experts. There are all sorts of ways we could help.
We’re assessing the situation and ready to help with the rebuilding efforts.
Just felt a minor tremor. I should go.
Shortly after this conversation Babu Ram reported back that he was safe.
Photo: © 2015 Babu Ram Aryal