The iconic Swayambhunath stupa in Kathmandu was relatively lucky in the aftermath of the devastating Nepal earthquake. Only one person was killed in the area though the earthquake shook the entire structure and reduced old houses, small shops and smaller temples in and around the complex to rubble within 15 seconds.
Pilgrims and tourists were shocked at first and ran for the exit. As the entire structure shook vigorously, people were thrown in different directions, while others struggled to get back on their feet. Some got stuck under the debris, and when they were pulled out by people nearby, their limbs were broken and heads profusely bleeding.
Helpless people sat down with their family, hands over their heads, and waited for the quake to subside. A huge blanket of dust enveloped the entire area and visibility was reduced to 10 metres making rescue ops more difficult. Shrill cries could be heard from underneath the pile of rubble.
Although no one died on the spot, unconfirmed reports suggested that a local labourer died while trying to exit a building. The police, however, said no one was killed.
Arjun Negi, 35, Indian tour operator, who was present at the spot during the earthquake said: “I was at a restaurant rooftop with a friend having tea and felt the floor beneath shake vigorously. I threw my tea and headed for the staircase. But when I held the railings, the stairs moved like I was swinging. And then I saw people jumping out of windows. I am sure some of them broke their legs. I thought I was going to die then.”
Even after the first shock was felt, several aftershocks kept rocking the place for another hour or so. There were still a lot of piled up debris, but the police and people present at the spot said the ones trapped under were immediately rescued, though there could be a possibility of more people being trapped inside.
Jose Leitao, 56, Brazilian national on his maiden visit to Nepal said he was horrified at the way people were jumping out of the windows and how the walls were collapsing everywhere, “I was sitting inside a cafe and all of a sudden the entire building moved from left to right, almost swaying in the wind. I ran towards the door and as I was going down the stairs, I heard people yelling and crying. Moment I reached the first floor of the four-floored cafe, another shockwave jolted us and I had hold the window bars for 20 horrifying seconds before I was stable. I hope this never happens to anyone.”
This was the second time an earthquake has hit Swayambhunath complex in recent times. The first one occurred in 1990, but did not damage the property. This one was more lethal as most of the smaller worship areas crumbled under the pressure.
The devastation could also be seen outside the temple premises where old houses collapsed and cracks could be seen on buildings.