Freelance journalist Donatella Lorch was having lunch on the fifth floor terrace of a building in downtown Kathmandu, Nepal, when another major earthquake struck. Lorch talks to Gwen Ifill about the “utter destruction” and worsening landslides, as well as the renewed fear and anxiety that Nepalis must cope with.
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Donatella Lorch, a freelance journalist living in Nepal, told us earlier today via Skype how she rode out the latest earthquake.
DONATELLA LORCH, Freelance Journalist:
It was just before 1:00 p.m. here in Kathmandu, and my husband and I were having lunch on the top-floor terrace, so we were on the fifth floor of this building in downtown central Kathmandu overlooking the former royal palace.
And then it started — the table started moving, and then it started swaying. And it slowly — the whole building started swaying back and forth, rolling in all different directions. And that's when the screams started, both from the street and from the other diners. And everyone got up and started running toward the stairs. And my husband grabbed me by the hand and he said, don't. He said, it's a really narrow staircase. It's a rickety staircase next to two very straight walls, and if they collapse, we're done for.
So, we just held hands and splayed our feet and tried balance ourselves. And what seemed like an eternity apparently was only about 25 seconds, but it seemed way longer than that. Kathmandu has calmed down a lot within 10 days. The districts that were very hard-hit were either extremely poor or under very bad construction on mud and clay areas.
The problem with the outside of Kathmandu is that it is carpeted destruction. It is everywhere. It is through the hills, it's through the valleys. It's entire villages and hamlets and these sheer mountain cliffs that have been — have crumbled, that have been destroyed, that have been — I mean, if you drive the paved roads east, and there's only really one or two paved roads east, it's not — it's like walking — it's driving 40 kilometers of utter destruction.
It is worse than Mogadishu in 1993, 1994, 1995. And in addition to that, there's landslides. So getting aid out has been very difficult and very complicated. And they have been able to get the aid out to the big towns and to near the big towns, but they were just getting a bit of a grasp on it. Many people still had not received even tarps from the April 25 earthquake because they're so far removed. You had to — like, their villages were two or three landslides away from where the truck could go, and then everything had to be carried by hand.
And it's — I have heard the landslides are very bad now, the new landslides. It's been raining very heavily for the past three, four nights. Villagers — I heard the villagers say that there's huge cracks in the upper mountains and the high-level villages, which makes them very prone to landslides.
And with this rain, it's even worse. There have been landslides reported near the town of Lankton, which was buried in landslides. A little bit further south of that, the big, large town called Dhunche, and that has been hard-hit by landslides today as well.
As a matter of fact, just before coming to this interview, I was putting my son to bed, and he grabbed my hand and put his head under the pillow. And I said, "Well, what are you doing, Lucas? I have to go to do this interview."
And he said, "But, momma, it's an earthquake, it's an earthquake."
And I said, "No, you're just thinking it's an earthquake." It's because a door had slightly slammed.
You're always — I wake up in the middle of the night, and that's really the worst times, where I lie awake for hours thinking, is it going to happen? Are we going to have another one? And we slept outdoors for two weeks, but, like everyone else, you have to get back indoors. You have to get back to a settled life.
The monsoons are — it's already pre-monsoon time right now. And it's raining very heavily on and off, which means that the big, heavy rains are right around the corner. And it's going to be really grim for everybody.