Nepal. The City of Pokhara, quite intact
May 2, 2015
…having just returned from a short trek around the tiny mountain village of Jhinu Danda, Sheppard was in his room at a local tea house when the quake struck on April 25.
“I heard the people next to me run downstairs,” he told the Daily Observer in a phone interview from Pokhara, Nepal, “so I ran after them, and less than 30 seconds later the roof of the tea house collapsed onto our rooms. The shock lasted for around two minutes, and then there were continuous aftershocks after that.”
The aftershocks just kept coming, and you could hear landslides happening all around us. The place where I was, the foundation of the building was just made of piled rocks, so the whole thing was shaking, and the whole village is nothing but tea houses, so there was nowhere to go.”
After collecting his thoughts, and his belongings from the rubble of the tea house, Sheppard’s thoughts immediately turned to Pokhara, Nepal’s second-largest city and the place he had been using as a base camp during his travels, which was roughly 80 km west of the quake’s epicentre.
Despite rumours of widespread destruction in Pokhara, Sheppard was relieved on his return to find that the city was largely intact, with only a couple of deaths and a dozen or so injuries as a result of the quake.
Despite his near-death experience, his overall goal was to get as close to the most damaged areas of the country as he could.
“After it happened, initially there was obviously fear, especially being in a very dangerous spot. But after the initial fear was over, I just had this feeling like I needed to get back and help, because I have skills that I could use to help, so I knew I needed to do it. And when I got back obviously I was happy that everyone was safe in Pokhara, but then my immediate reaction was ‘get to Kathmandu’. I bought a bunch of food to last me a week, loaded up on water and was trying my best to get to Kathmandu, but all the flights and buses were cancelled.”
After spending some time triaging patients arriving by ambulance and air from the devastated capital region, he then went to Gandacki Medical College to offer what assistance he could to the chaotic scene confronting local medical professionals.
“It was madness,” he says. “It was insane. They weren’t prepared for it at all. They would come, the loads of people, 20-30 at a time, and there were probably 20 doctors in the room already, and then they called in medical students, probably 20 more of them.”