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until we got to it that we could see the earthquake’s power. More
than half the town’s traditional mud-brick buildings had crum-
bled. Entire brick walls had been ripped off. A massive three-story,
pagoda-like Indrayani temple in the central square was precari-
ously leaning, jagged cracks on its walls. Miraculously, because it
had happened midday and most people were out of their houses,
only 14 people had died.
Pre- and post-quake
Pre-quake, I was often asked whether I liked living in Nepal. I love
Nepal. Despite the massive pollution, the daily winter electricity
cuts, the legendary traffic jams and ubiquitous garbage, Nepal
won me over with its natural beauty, its living religions, and also
the warmth and quirkiness of its fun-loving people. As so many
Nepalis have told me: “ We survive and exist not
because of our government but in spite of it.”
I owe much to my Nepali friends, colleagues
and neighbors who immediately reached out
to make sure we were okay. Keshav, our cook,
a former Marxist-Leninist revolutionary who
also doubles as my translator and fixer on re-
porting stories, left his own badly damaged
house and came to our place that first evening,
building an impromptu tarp shelter for our
earthquake gear where he and Biko slept. Lucas
and I joined him on his motorcycle as I reported
on the destruction in the valley. With our internet down, we found
connectivity and much appreciated company at the home of my
friends Kunda and his wife Milan, where we weathered a few big
aftershocks sitting together in their garden. Another impromptu
family were my husband’s World Bank colleagues, several of whom
came to the office within the first hours to track down all staff.
For the first time, I was living the story that I was reporting. The
quake had in one way or another affected everyone in 14 of Nepal’s
75 districts. It’s the language we all had in common. In Kathmandu,
people greeted each other for weeks by asking: “ Where were you
when the quake hit?” After large aftershocks, they still start con-
versations with “Did you feel that?” After a powerful 5:00 a.m.
aftershock one morning, a friend tweeted: “ Wakey, Wakey. That
was a big one.” We were all part of a big community. We all suffered
from earthquake “hangovers,” the feeling that the earth was mov-
ing even when it was not. That first week after the 7.8 magnitude
quake, I’ve never hugged and been hugged by so many people, even
View from the States
Back in the States for vacation this summer, many friends asked
me why I didn’t leave immediately after April 25th
. Many foreign-
ers did leave. Kathmandu experienced an exodus. Some embassies
evacuated families and non-essential personnel,
including DFID, the arm of the U.K. government
that oversees international aid. Over 300,000
migrant workers from India and other areas of
Nepal left Kathmandu within days.
Yes, I could have left. I certainly worried about
Lucas and his safety. But my husband John was
back in Nepal working, saying that this was the
time help was most needed in Nepal, so it was
absolutely the wrong time for us to leave. In addi-
tion, I was reporting. The World Bank gave all its
employees and their dependents an opportunity
to evacuate, but in the end only one of about 400 people chose to
do so. Lucas said he did not want to leave as long as both his par-
ents were in Nepal. John and I felt that if we left the place we call
home, we were telling our son that when the going got tough, the
easiest solution was to leave the problem behind. I knew even in the
first minutes after the first earthquake that I couldn’t possibly leave.
Nepal is my home. I have tried to demonstrate solidarity with the
country and my friends there in the only way I know how: by writing.
Lettre du Népal
l Donatella Lorch, journaliste et correspondante
depuis plus de vingt ans, a couvert les guerres et les
conflits en Asie du Sud, au Moyen-Orient, en Afrique
et en Europe. En avril 2015, elle était sur place lors du
tremblement de terre au Népal, notamment pour le
New York Times, NPR, NBC News et le UNHCR. Elle
raconte ici comment elle a vécu le séisme avec son
jeune fils, Lucas.
Je vis au Népal depuis plus de deux ans maintenant, et pas
un jour ne passe sans que je pense à des tremblements de
terre. Je savais que j’allais dans une région où les experts
avaient prédit que tôt ou tard un violent séisme aurait lieu.
J’ai une tendance à trop me préparer, une habitude sans
doute acquise au cours de mes 20 années d’expérience
sur la route comme correspondante à l’étranger : je n’avais
pas un mais trois sacs de survie spécialement prévus pour
les tremblements de terre, avec vêtements de rechange,
Donatella’s family spent several weeks sleeping in a tent after the earthquake.
It became a safe haven, especially for her son, Lucas.
La famille de Donatella a passé plusieurs semaines à dormir dans une tente suite au
séisme. Cet endroit est devenu un refuge, surtout pour son fils Lucas.
This was the time
that help was
most needed in
Nepal, so it was
wrong time for
us to leave.
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