Belfast Telegraph

Irish Oxfam worker survives second Nepal quake: 'The ground was shaking and buildings collapsing - we're lucky to be alive'

An Irish charity worker has said he feels lucky to be alive as he told of the moment he witnessed the second earthquake to strike Nepal in two weeks.

The powerful earthquake follows a previous major quake which caused widespread devastation and killed more than 8,000 people.

Oxfam Ireland's humanitarian manager Colm Byrne said people were afraid of the aftershocks and landslides that could follow.

Today's 7.3 magnitude quake struck an isolated Himalayan area between the capital, Kathmandu, and Mount Everest, near the Chinese border, the US Geological Survey said.

At least four people were killed in the remote village of Chautara, the Associated Press reported, and aid agencies said they are scrambling to provide aid to areas hit again.

Speaking from the Chautara area in the Sindhupalchowk province, the region worst affected by the first earthquake which struck on April 25, Mr  Byrne said everyone is on "high alert".

He said: “I am in a rural area which was rocked by this morning’s quake. It was very powerful. The ground was shaking and buildings were collapsing. I’ve also seen people being carried on stretchers.

“We are lucky to be alive, five minutes earlier or later and it could have been a different story. People are shocked and scared by what’s happened. The fear now is what could follow. Everyone is on high alert for aftershocks and landslides.”

Chautara is about 40km from the epicentre of today’s earthquake.

The charity worker said the Nepalese people now need shelter more urgently than ever.

Today's major quake was deeper, at 11.5 miles (18.5km), than the 7.8 magnitude quake that hit on April 25, which was at 9.3 miles (15km) down.

This morning's quake was followed by a series of lesser aftershocks measuring from magnitude 5.6 to 6.3, the USGS reported.

It forced the closure of Kathmandu's international airport, which has been the focus of aid efforts to help people affected by last month's earthquake.

“Nepal has been devastated and now another quake means people are fleeing their homes. Existing camps for the displaced are becoming more crowded so we urgently need more shelter," Mr Byrne said.

Since April 25 thousands of people have been living outdoors in 16 sites that were designated by government in preparation for a quake.

Oxfam had an existing plan in place to deliver water and sanitation in the event of an earthquake and said they were able to move quickly to respond to the needs.

Mr Byrne continued: “We have supplies in place to help people affected by the second quake but we need more.

“The airport facilities were damaged by the first quake but our supply lines through Oxfam in India means we are able to deliver aid fast despite damage to infrastructure. If we can get more supplies we can deliver them.”

In the same area, Christian Aid emergency workers were also caught up in the terrifying quake as they continue working with partner organisations in a bid to get relief through to the area worst hit by the earthquake.

Christian Aid emergency programme officer Yeeshu Shukla, already in Nepal to help co-ordinate relief efforts after the first earthquake, was also in the Sindhupalchowk region, when the building he was in began shaking.

He said: “For a moment, I felt that the building I was in would come down. We rushed out. Everyone was out on the street, some of them panicking, with mothers screaming, looking for their children. There were four or five severe after-shocks and some buildings collapsed.

“Travelling later towards Kathmandu the roads were lined with people too scared to re-enter buildings, with heaps of rubble where some had structures had collapsed.

“Now the race is to get relief through to the worst hit areas – clothing and other essentials. There is a shortage of drivers, however, many of whom have returned to their homes to be with their families.”

Nick Guttmann, Christian Aid’s Head of Humanitarian had just arrived in the country to monitor the progress of Christian Aid’s initial relief efforts.

He was visiting a partner agency in Kathmandu before visiting a distribution point when a slight tremor ran through the building.

He said: "Outside, the ground looked like it was rippling.

“We didn’t know where to go and stayed under some corrugated iron.”

An hour after the earthquake, he said: “People were walking round the streets, not knowing what to do, I heard one woman ask ‘What is happening to Nepal’.”

Since the first earthquake struck, Christian Aid said it has worked through partner organisations in Nepal distributing blankets, tarpaulins, food, water purification equipment and water purification tablets to communities struggling to rebuild their lives.

In addition to €50,000 received from Irish Aid, Christian Aid Ireland said it is grateful to the general public and to the churches in Ireland for the Nepal Earthquake appeals launched on its behalf.

Oxfam is now seeking public support for its appeal. Donate at, in your local shops, or by calling 0800 0 30 40 55.

Further reading:

Nepal hit by 7.4 earthquake as it struggles to recover from disaster just weeks ago that killed more than 8,000 people

Belfast trader caught in Nepal earthquake vows to keep backing country in wake of devastation

£50m in public donations to Nepal

Nepal earthquake: Derry climber and her partner cheat death as avalanche buries Base Camp

Mother's agony after uncle dies in Nepal earthquake  

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