For five days, Gautam Prajapati, 50, waited near the debris of his house under which his mother, wife and daughter were buried, hoping that rescue teams would be able to retrieve the bodies.
When the earthquake struck on Saturday, Prajapati and his son were buried under their three-storey house in Balaju, one of the worst affected residential areas of Kathmandu, but managed to escape with minor injuries. However, his mother, 77, wife, 50 and daughter, 30, remained trapped under the rubble.
“I could hear their cries for help, but couldn’t do anything. I called the police, doctors, local politicians. They all said help was on the way,” said Prajapati. By Saturday night, the cries stopped. Prajapati kept calling out to them, but received no response.
On Tuesday, an Indian rescue team arrived at the spot. “They looked at the debris and said it was too dangerous. They said they would come back later. Then a Chinese team arrived, but they too left, saying they would be back on Wednesday morning. On Wednesday morning, a team from India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) arrived and finally retrieved the bodies,” said Prajapati. He had two tenants — an insurance agent who survived, and a mechanic from India who did not.
A little distance away is the rubble of what was once the home of Uddav Sapkota, 48, in an upmarket stretch of Balaju. “From crorepatis, we’ve become roadpatis,” said Sapkota, whose house was barely 200 metres away from the residence of the local MP. “We’re good friends, but he didn’t turn up,” said Sapkota. “I started crying when I accepted help. I have never had to take anyone’s help all my life,” he said.
His neighbour, Narayan Bhakta Ranjitkar, a senior mechanical officer at the Kathmandu airport, said they received five tarpaulin sheets and mattresses from a voluntary organisation.
“Nobody from the government has come to us so far,” said Sapkota.
“Local residents rescued people themselves. There is no water, electricity or phone network,” said another resident, Subarna Rajbhandari, standing next to the rubble of a hotel from which seven bodies were recovered.