Nineteen hours and 58 minutes after the first tremor shook Nepal, Jasjeet Singh Malhotra stood outside Terminal-3 at Indira Gandhi International Airport hugging his family, unable to believe that he was alive.
“When the first tremor happened, my sister came running out. It felt like the world was exploding. My mother was inside. We ran to an empty space. Since then, we have been living in the open. We haven’t eaten or slept. The slightest movement, a loud noise —everything scares us.”
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As rescue operations continue in Nepal in the aftermath of the quake that struck the Himalayan belt on Saturday, more Indians were rescued by the government. From tourists to a businessman and his family, many were flown back on Sunday evening.
Outside Gate Number 6 at the Terminal-3, even amidst hundreds streaming by, it was easy to spot those who had been rescued by the Indian Air Force. Some faces had relief written all over them, while others mirrored the horror of the last two days.
“It’s impossible to try and explain what it was like. We spent the entire night in the open. There was no food. It was raining and bitter cold. We were terrified when the second tremor happened on Sunday. Even local residents of Nepal had no idea what to do,” Natasha Ahluwat, a Singapore-based businessman who had travelled to Kathmandu for a wedding, said.
Dalbir Kaur, an Indian residing in Kathmandu, said for her there was no going back. “We had moved to Kathmandu from Punjab years ago. Now, we are back for good. There’s nothing left for us to go back to. Everything — from monuments to the homes of people we knew — is gone,” she said. By late evening, a number of planes brought in more rescued persons. Though the stories differed vastly in their recounting of the quake, one thing was constant — the need to explain what they had seen.
“Buildings that we had seen earlier on our trip, no longer existed. Everywhere you looked there was only destruction. People were dead. Others were walking around, bleeding. Sitting in Delhi, you can’t imagine what it was like. I’m glad to be alive,” Mohit Jha, a resident of Bihar, said.