About 252 kilometres from Kathmandu, Rupandehi district did not suffer much damage on Saturday, barring a few cracks in some buildings. Yet, the residents spent a sleepless night, troubled by the aftershocks.
“We usually sleep at around 9 pm, but yesterday we were roaming the streets till midnight,” says Hari Om, sitting in his small lodge.
“At around 2 am, and then again at about 4:42 am, we felt tremors,” adds Mahesh Yadav, a policeman. “Four people jumped off some buildings when the earthquake struck the first time on Saturday. They managed to escape with some injuries,” he says.
At about 7 am on Sunday, the locals are gathered in groups, discussing what to do next. With telecom lines down, the police and Army personnel stationed at regular outposts are their only sources of information.
Though schools are closed, a few shops open as the day begins. Some distance away, the towns on the road from Rupandehi to Kathmandu report the same story — some damage, but nothing major.
But as the distance to Kathmandu gets shorter, there are more fallen rocks and boulders on the road. There are also more buses and other vehicles, crowded with passengers and their luggage, all fleeing Kathmandu. The few vehicles heading towards the capital city are mostly military trucks and ambulances.
People are camped outside, in makeshift tents. They have been advised to “live in the open till it is safe”, though nobody can say when it will be safe again. The number of such tents increases on the way to the capital.
At a checkpost in the hilly Dhading district, roughly 70 kilometres from Kathmandu, women sit inside the tents, their almirahs, sofas, stoves and utensils gathered around them, and their children playing outside.
In Ghajuri town, the last town in Dhading district, there are more visible signs of damage. Many houses have collapsed, and almost all the people are living out in the open. This becomes a common sight as one enters Kathmandu. “Rescue operations are still going on,” says Sub-Inspector Sudhir Pandey, as he oversees an operation to retrieve the body of a woman from the debris.
Along the main road in Kathmandu, people sit with their backpacks, waiting for a bus or some mode of transport to take them to safety. There are groups of people walking, carrying their luggage. On either side of the road, there are signs of the damage caused by the quake, fallen stones and bricks — the rubble left behind.