Nepal Earthquake: Death, Destruction, and Stories of Survival

On April 25th, the lives of thousands, if not millions, of Nepalese people were changed forever. On this day, a 7.8 Magnitude earthquake struck just Northwest of Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu, sending violent shockwaves all across the small, isolated mountain nation. These shockwaves dismantled much of the capital city’s infrastructure and trapped/killed thousands of people in a matter of seconds.

Now almost a week after the earthquake occurred, rescue efforts are moving along at a very slow pace. In addition to the Nepalese military, many other international organizations and countries have banded together to help with the search effort, but because many of the affected areas are remote in locales, it has been a tough go of things as far as accessing some of these ravaged places is concerned. The search and rescue effort is going to continue through the next few days, but as time moves forward it is looking more like a search and recovery mission.

Despite the countless casualties and overwhelming heartbreak, there have been some uplifting stories of survival that defy all odds.

Trapped Amidst The Rubble

Search and rescue missions, regardless of the scenario surrounding them, are never walks in the park for those involved. Especially in the aftermath of earthquakes, the effort it takes to extract living humans from the rubble is nothing short of extraordinary simply because of the tedious nature of the extraction process.

More than 80 hours after the April 25th earthquake occurred, a man named Rishi Khanal was pulled from the rubble that was, only days earlier, his home on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Khanal was rescued by a French search and rescue team that used countless rescue techniques to locate and subsequently extract him. Using high-quality, extremely high-tech gear that is designed to search for signs of life in the wake of disasters like earthquakes, rescuers are able to determine whether a pile of rubble is worth rummaging through or not. In most cases, it is nearly impossible to tell with the naked eye whether there are people trapped beneath the fallen buildings. What’s more, even if you are sure there are people trapped, there is no easy way to tell if they are living or not. With equipment that can detect small traces of noise and carbon dioxide, the French rescue team was able to determine that there was, in fact, someone buried alive beneath the destruction, and that someone just happened to be Rishi Khanal.

To put into perspective just how tedious these search and rescue efforts are, the French rescue team that discovered Khanal was not actually able to pull him from the rubble until 10 hours after they realized someone was trapped. The rescue process involved a lot of slow-paced, careful chiseling which resulted in the team making their way to the central part of the collapsed building and pulling Khanal through a small hole in the wall. As difficult as it may be to believe, Rishi only suffered a broken leg as a result of the disaster. Only a few more hours and it is extremely likely that he would have perished from a combination of starvation and exhaustion.

Surviving An Earthquake—A Game of Chance

When it comes down to it, there is no surefire way to survive a devastating disaster such as an earthquake. Instead, you will come to find out that most of these survivors depended on little more than extremely upbeat fortune in order to make it out alive.

With regard to Khanal’s survival, what makes it so unique is that typically, after three days, it is very rare to find someone still breathing beneath the rubble. According to experts such as Garret Ingoglia of AmeriCares, survival in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake is dependent on air supply, access to clean water, and how severely injured the person in question is. Of course, intangibles such as the person’s will to survive play into situations such as these as well, and is a major part of the reason Khanal made it out. His sheer desire to live helped carry him through a life-threatening scenario in a part of the world where infrastructure is such that survival in the wake of a natural disaster is never guaranteed.

Rescue and recovery teams are still making their way to Nepal, but because of the country’s remoteness, the stream of supplies and rescue teams is nothing more than a slow trickle. The official death-toll has now eclipsed 5,000, but many analysts believe that that figure may rise to and beyond 10,000 by the time things are all said and done. Nepal is a very poor country, so rescue teams and anyone close to the situation is asking that you do whatever you can to help these people in their time of need. If you would like to donate to the recovery effort, you can do so through organizations such as the Red Cross, Oxfam, and Mercy Corps as they guarantee that 100% of donated funds will go directly to those who need them most.