Sat, 17 Apr, 2021

A Moment of Tremor and Terror

By Subigya Kumar Nepal

There was mayhem on the streets; I was overwhelmed by a sense of panic. The fact that I had bare feet meant nothing because at that moment, having no footwear was the least of my worries. It was also because people were too frightened to notice that fact. I, along with my neighbors, was standing on the street, looking at many other disoriented faces. Gradually, the tension seemed to be easing and people were beginning to return to their respective homes. I had heard many stories of it, but the stories never fully explained how you feel during an earthquake. I was still reeling from the fact that I had just experienced an earthquake for the first time in my life. A quarter of an hour ago, I was watching my weekly soccer show when I felt something move. At first, I dismissed the tremorsthinking that a heavy vehicle might be passing through our street which was not at all rare. When, however, the tremors seemed to last longer and felt more powerful than a vehicle could produce, I felt a chill as the realization began to dawn on me-an earthquake was occurring. It was as if everything that I had learned about “What to do during a quake?” was wiped off of my mind. I didn’t have a clue to what I should do next. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I should not stay there without doing anything. I then called my father, who was on the ground floor, asking, “What should I do?” He told me to come down to him and I ran at full speed while the tremors continued. There, they were in a high-alert mode. Then, as the tremors became more intense we decided to move out to the streets as people from neighboring houses were doing the same. And just as suddenly it had started, the shaking stopped. All this had happened in the span of one-minute, where the tremors seemed to be coming and going in 10-15 second waves. I had heard stories about the earthquake of ’88 from my parents. Allegedly, that quake occurred at about five o’clock in the morning and it had lasted for about a minute. They told stories about the quake and how it had a great effect on my elder cousin who was about three years old at that time. Supposedly, he went all quiet for a few months after that incident. But nothing they said could have prepared me for what I experienced that day. It was a mild tremor which only lasted for about half-a-minute. Nepal is located in an earthquake active region and it is believed that a “big” quake is due any time. Especially Kathmandu, with its close-knit, tall and haphazardly built buildings, is expected to bear heavy casualties if ever such a thing were to happen. The events of that day gave me many sleepless nights. I even searched the internet for what should be done during an earthquake and will always try to keep that in mind. What I realized though after many days of brooding is that we (Kathmandu residents) are so ill-equipped that if an earthquake “decides” to kill us, we will not survive it unless serious actions are taken and soon! (Subigya Kumar Nepal is a student at DWIT studying in the second semester.)