The usual queue of trucks is missing on the road from Raxaul, in Bihar, to Nepal’s border town of Birgunj. Though the town did not suffer any damage on Saturday, the fear of aftershocks was apparent as policemen cautioned travellers against taking the hilly route from Bhaise to Kathmandu via Palung.
Landslides dot the road to Lamidada village in Makwanpur district, one of the worst-hit districts, as residents camp in tents in open fields, amid the rubble of their houses. There is no visible government help on the ground.
“Nature has done this to us. We have to stand on our own. I am happy that I am alive… I know it will take at least Rs 3 lakh to repair my house, but who should I complain to,” says Sanu Maya, a villager. His neighbours, Deepak Lama, Bhimsen Lama and Prem Bomjan, say they share the same fate.
A few kilometres away, the body of a 12-year-old girl, Savita Rumba, lies on the roadside at Mahavir village. She was alone at home when the quake hit and her house collapsed. Her parents haven’t returned yet. As a police team seeks details of her death, locals discuss newspaper reports which warned of more aftershocks.
At Aghor Bazaar, a Red Cross team informs the police that five people are trapped inside a house somewhere in the hills. The police, however, appear to be helpless. “We have no count of how many people have died so far in the area. The rural areas are the worst-hit and rescue and relief teams have started arriving only today… Communication lines are down, hampering rescue efforts,” says a police official.
“Almost all the villagers stayed out in the open on Saturday night. Till 9 am today, we felt as many as five aftershocks,” says Umesh Baskata of Jhirgadi village, adding that most of the villagers were unlikely to return to their homes for at least another two days.
The damage is more evident in the areas near Palung. At Dadubhajan village, all the houses have been razed to the ground and there are visible cracks on the roads. The village is empty.
A few kilometres away, at Daman, a resident says that almost all the houses in the village have developed cracks, and even a low intensity earthquake would flatten their homes now.
On the outskirts of Pulang, a group of youths stop vehicles from entering the town after another high-intensity aftershock. “The town has suffered heavy damage,” says a resident.
At Nabisi town, an open area has become a shelter for locals. “I was lucky. I was at my shop when the quake hit. My house was badly damaged,” says a woman.
Near Kathmandu, the situation worsens. At Thankot, about six kilometres from the capital city, the houses have collapsed completely. A five-storey building on the outskirts of Kathmandu has been flattened. While 12 people were rescued from the site, eight lost their lives.
The Tudhikhel ground in Kathmandu has become another shelter, after Ramdev and the organisers of a yoga camp vacated the spot, leaving the tents behind. Nobody plans to return home anytime soon, as yet another aftershock rocked the city late in the evening.