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A team from Miyamoto was on the ground in Nepal within days of the April 25th Gorka Earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people. In Dr. H. Kit Miyamoto’s latest journal entries, he encounters flattened schools, a request to trek to the Everest base camp and angry protesters on a mountain road.
We are driving fast through burning roadblocks. People are upset and demonstrating. Food and water has not reached this remote part of country yet. It is one of the least developed districts in Nepal. When one of the roadblocks forces us to stop, one of protesters approaches me to apologize. “I am so sorry to stop the traffic. But we are making a statement to the government. We need food, water and tents as soon as possible.” Then he invited me to his camp, to share his “meager dinner.” This is probably the most respectable protester I have ever met.
I am sleeping average of 2.5 hours for the last four days. We start early and end super late. Then people in the U.S. wake up and there are daily Skype interviews and reports to write until after midnight. It’s a battlefield of adrenaline. I don’t feel much fatigue.
Our assessment team in Nepal so far is me, Sandeep and Manis. Sandeep Shah is from our Miyamoto India office and Manis is our Nepalese structural engineer partner. He ran one of the largest companies with 30 people in Kathmandu.
Manis drives a little red Honda through the city. The town is empty and all the stores are closed with not much action. The apartments above the stores are all vacant. The population essentially fled the town for fear of the next earthquake. We notice a large modern complex of a high-rise condominium building along the dusty road. As we approach the complex, we see large gashes and cracks on many of the walls. Some of walls are totally missing with furniture exposed inside. I hope no one fell with it. A small lady sitting by the curbside asks me, “I am living in this house next door. Can I go back to live in my house?” All of us decide to go into the gut of this building to see if there is structural damage. I tell our guys, “We should get in fast and get out – and watch your head.”
Tuesday, April 28, 11 pm
After 30 hours of flight over Afghanistan and Iran, my plane was put on hold over Kathmandu airport. I was sitting next to a BBC producer and she told me she’s been in the air for the past three days trying to get to here. She was turned back twice because the airport was shut down.
I met up with Sandeep Shah, who heads our India office, at the crowded airport, where international rescue crews and police units gathered everywhere making plans.
I told everyone on our team to bring a change of clothes, seven days of MREs (meals ready to eat), a water filter, dust mask, construction boots, head-mounted light, international mobile phone, hardhat, rain jacket, seven days’ worth of power bars, a day pack and anything else to be independently sustainable, except for water.
Kathmandu was dark and quiet. We drove through quickly to reach our small hotel. We are the only new guests today and the hotel’s small garden had been taken over by tourists stuck here who were afraid to sleep inside. How ironic that two structural engineers opted to sleep indoors while the rest stayed out, fearful of aftershocks. Tomorrow we will assess the whole town, including a children’s school, and have several meetings with the UN, NGOs and others. We have a long day ahead of us.