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Surviving An Earthquake In Namche Bazaar, Nepal

Earthquake Damage Namche Bazaar
Damage from the earthquake on 09/18/2011, luckily this was about the worst of it that we saw

There are a lot of hazards you think of when you imagine the Everest region and the elements that come with it, but we never saw this coming. While waiting for dinner on the second floor of our Namche Bazaar tea house, on the evening of September 18 (2 days into our trek to Everest Base Camp), a magnitude 6.8 earthquake hit the mountainous region diving India and Nepal. All of us coming from California, our first thought was “Oh, it’s just a little earthquake”; and then it clicked. We were in a small village in the Himalayas, we had seen first hand how these buildings were constructed, they stack bricks and seal them with mud.

Everybody ran out of the building and tried to find an area where the surrounding buildings couldn’t collapse on us. It wasn’t easy as we were standing in the middle of a populated hill, with several rows of buildings above and below us. The town was pitch black other than the light from our headlamps, and the sounds in the air were horrifying. We had no idea what the extent of the damage was because of the dark, but looking down on the rest of the town all we heard were chilling screams, as if half the town was lying in rubble. The few soldiers stationed in town rang an alarm, an air raid sounding siren, which made it feel that much more serious. We randomly pointed out one of the buildings earlier that same day, and made a crack about how that guy would be pretty screwed in an earthquake. It was at this point I thought our trek was over, we’d be helping clear bodies and look for survivors instead.

We were with a couple Canadians and a Swedish guy at the time, so they were not used to Earthquakes, in fact this was our Swedish friends first, and he was very scared. We kept hounding our guide, “Should we go down and try and help people?”, but he didn’t want us to leave. The workers from the tea house and other guides were all on their phones, trying to check on their families and find out what was going on around Namche and Nepal. They were not the only ones looking for comfort, too many people on their phones, nobody could get through at all. Maybe 10 minutes later, the army came through with flash lights checking on everybody. They told us to go inside.

As the whole crowd of us went inside and began calming down, the owner of the tea house said he got a call and we all need to go outside again. Nobody knew what was going on, Namche Bazaar doesn’t get earthquakes. One of the locals had said in the 15 years he’s lived in Namche, he’d never been through an earthquake. We went back outside, things had calmed down, the siren was off, screams no more. Apparently damage was not that bad, the village town was just extremely shaken up. The screams were simply out of fear, not a single person died in the village, nor were any buried under the remains of the homes.

The next day we would find out a couple walls had fallen down, there was definitely damage to some of the buildings, but nothing major, and more importantly the people were okay. Sadly the same did not hold true around the rest of Nepal, Tibet and India, the 6.8 earthquake claimed 111 lives, with 3 of those coming from a collapsed wall at the British Embassy in Kathmandu.

Photos From the 9/18/2011 Earthquake in Nepal

Namche Bazaar Fog
Same view we would have later that night in the pitch black, listening to the screams of the town below
Namche Bazaar Poor Building
The building we joked about being in trouble if an earthquake hit, this is pre-earthquake
Crack Building Namche Bazaar Earthquake
A crack in a building caused by the earthquake on September 18
Rebuilding A Damaged Wall After Earthquake
A few guys rebuilding a damaged wall after the earthquake

Namche Bazaar Map

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