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How we lived the earthquake in Nepal

Since we learned about the earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015, Pasang and I began to call the Nepalese consulates in Madrid and Barcelona to get more information about what happened, but as it was the weekend no one answered despite being an emergency situation.

Afterwards we tried to contact the Spanish consulate in Nepal, but in Nepal it was very difficult to get in touch by phone… We still managed to talk to Pasang’s sisters in Kathmandu and they were all fine, but they had no news of their parents and little brother Karpu who were in Langtang. Even then the sisters of Pasang told us that there were rumors that Langtang had disappeared, according to a pilot who had flown over the area with his helicopter.
We were very scared, but we wanted to think that it was only a rumor, and that they simply had no way of communicating, but that soon we would know something?
Then we called the Spanish Embassy in Delhi, India (it is the closest embassy that deals with the affairs with Nepal). There they must have been saturated with calls, but finally they answered and I tried to ask them about Langtang and I told them I had relatives there, but they told me they had no information that anything had happened in Langtang, and gave me an emergency phone where they said they would take my data and gave me the contact of the Nepalese embassy in Delhi, where of course they did not answer .
In the emergency unit, when they finally picked up the phone, they told me that they do not look for Nepalese, even though they are relatives of Spaniards, and they do not have any news that anything happened in Langtang…
I called the embassy again to see if they knew anything about Langtang, and emailed them the first news from a local newspaper that had reached us, where they were already talking about a big avalanche. But nothing… They didn’t answer the phone anymore, nor did they answer my e-mails.

At the same time, my mother also wrote several emails and tried to talk to them, but she got the same results.

Pasang was broken, we didn’t know what to do. The phones were no longer working in Nepal and we couldn’t talk to his sisters. The lack of communication and the wait for news from the official agencies made us desperate… There was no way of knowing what was happening.

Kitty Heldwoman tweeted what she was talking about with her friend Kate Heldman from Kyanjin on a satellite phone.

Ignoring the recommendations, we decided to fly to Nepal. On the 26th we bought the tickets and on the 27th we left for there… We arrived on April 29th at 6AM in Kathmandu.

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As soon as we arrived in Kathmandu we met Pasang’s sisters at the airport, in the area where the helicopters are arriving, waiting for news of a helicopter that would fly to Langtang and bring survivors. The first wounded had started to arrive, and luckily they told us that Nima and Karpu had survived and were not wounded. They were sheltering in improvised camps in the mountains. But we still knew nothing about Pasang’s mother.

An avalanche had actually devastated Langtang and the embassies were still ignoring us.

Many people like us needed information. Many Nepalese were out of their country and needed to really know what was happening to properly assess the possibility of returning…

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

 

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My mother called us from Spain and gave us the number of a contact she had gotten. It was an NGO of dogs trained to search through the rubble. Their name was K9 and they had arrived in Nepal the same day. We called right away and talked to David Toldos who quickly approached the airport accompanied by a local guide. We talked to him and explained the situation in Langtang and he immediately offered us his total willingness to go up there with his team and look for possible survivors (even though it had been 3 days since the earthquake). If no survivors were found, at least they could mark the places where the dogs smelled the bodies, to facilitate the subsequent task of searching and extracting the bodies.
We personally wanted to go up and look for Pasang’s parents and his brother Karpu. We thought that, although it was dangerous, we wanted to go up accompanied by the K9 team and maybe we could find Pasang’s mother or grandmother with the help of the dogs. If there was any possibility to get someone alive from there we had to try… In Kathmandu they found survivors under the rubble after a week…

The problem we had was that there were no helicopters to go to Langtang. Everything was focused on the Everest area and around Kathmandu. Not even paying for a helicopter was available in those days, since the government decided where the rescues would be made.

CREIXELL_K9.jpg

To Langtang had begun to fly, but only to collect survivors (the first days only picked up tourists despite many wounded Nepalese who had to wait). We had received news that a few hours earlier they had had to go down to a Canadian rescue team because their dogs had suffered from altitude sickness and were fainting, being a problem more than a help .

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In spite of all this David called Spain to try the possibility of hiring the services of a private helicopter, but they were exceptionally expensive and besides nobody assured them the return to Kathmandu from the mountains. They knew that it was going to be a very dangerous mission, and finally from Spain they valued the security of their team and decided that they were not prepared to take that risk?

All this meant that we could not go there, but we kept in touch with K9 during those days since they were doing rescue work in Kathmandu and the surrounding area, and they warned us of every new development… They even put us in touch with Victor M.Olazábal from El Mundo, and Pilar and Catalina from Tele 5, who came to Yellow Gumpa to record a report of what happened to be broadcast on the news in Spain.

We don’t know if it was because of pressure from the relatives of the disappeared, but 5 days after our attempt to go to Langtang (8 days after the earthquake), the UME (Army Mountain Unit) and the Guardia Civil went up into the mountains to look for survivors…regular news I don’t doubt their efficiency and professionalism, I’m sure they are highly prepared for this kind of task and that they were very eager to act, but once again it shows how little nimble our rulers are in these situations, as they took too long to get moving, and then left too soon.

And also, speaking later with one of the civil guards who was there and who continues to help, confirmed my suspicions, since he too thinks that this whole mobilization was more of a political maneuver in the face of the public image and the relatives, than a real rescue attempt.

GRA320. ZARAGOZA, 02/05/2015.- Militares de la UME y los miembros del Grupo de Montaña de la Guardia Civil que participarán en el operativo de búsqueda de los españoles desaparecidos en Nepal tras el terremoto hoy en la Base Aérea de Zaragoza, desde donde han partido rumbo al país asiático. EFE/JAVIER BELVER

On May 9, they announced that the search efforts in Langtang were over, and a week later the people of Langtang themselves went back up into the mountains, disobeying government prohibitions, and found 58 more bodies, including 2 of the missing Spaniards.

From here we want to thank Pedro Frutos, founder of K9 in 2005, who was informing and supporting my mother 200% and was one of the first to confirm the avalanche…

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He could not go directly to Nepal because of health problems, but his team of volunteers met expectations and informed us much better than our own embassies or emergency cabinets.
These initiatives deserve all the support that we can offer since they are direct action in moments of crisis and from here I ask you to visit their website to see what they are doing with their dogs, which is very interesting. http://ongk9.eu/index1.html

Thank you very much for your volunteer work.

On the fifth day in the afternoon Pasang’s father arrived in Kathmandu. He entered the door and called to his daughters who ran to embrace him… He was coming directly from the mountains, from spending a week surviving the disaster, he was coming from seeing his friends and family die…, and in spite of being a very strong man that afternoon he collapsed with his daughters. They were all crying desperately, because at that moment, hearing it directly from their father, they really lost hope of seeing their mother again.

We stayed in Nepal for 15 days helping out where we could, until we realized that we would be much more useful from Spain. But before returning to Spain we decided, together with the young people of Langtang in the refugee camp, that we would create a website to get help and continue to report on the disaster that had occurred…, and for that reason we created Langtang Disaster Relief Found (name given directly by them). We want to give a voice to our family and friends of Langtang, and give them a push so that they can recover their lives.

More related news:

Minister Margallo returns from Nepal.

http://www.libertaddigital.com/internacional/mundo/2015-04-28/margallo-regresa-esta-noche-a-madrid-con-los-primeros-44-espanoles-evacuados-de-nepal-1276546699/

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The family of the mountaineer Isabel Ortiz feels “abandoned” by the government.

http://www.eldiariomontanes.es/cantabria/201505/04/buenos-pero-llegado-tarde-20150504170048.html

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Opinion article by Francisco Rey on the Spanish Government’s response to the earthquake.

http://www.huffingtonpost.es/francisco-rey/nepal-todo-vale_b_7213060.html

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Article explaining how helicopters were monopolized for the Everest area.

http://eveningsends.com/climbing/everests-helicopters-couldve-been-used-elsewhere/

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Helicopters to rescue mountaineers, but not to rescue villagers in rural areas.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/05/02/nepal-helicopters-earthquake-relief-everest/

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Some Langtang survivors talk about their experience and their desire to return there.

http://nepalitimes.com/article/nation/survivers-of-langtang-want-to-go-home-but-uncertainty-over-when-due-to-safety-issues,2319

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2 news about the discovery of the bodies of 2 Spaniards.

http://www.diariovasco.com/politica/201506/07/nepal-identifica-espanoles-encontrados-20150607120115-rc.html

http://www.elmundo.es/espana/2015/06/07/55741ab5268e3eb7638b456f.html

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The UME and the Civil Guard leave Nepal.

http://www.elmundo.es/espana/2015/05/09/554dfec222601d38098b4577.html

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The 5 civil guards who went up to Langtang.

http://www.lne.es/sucesos/2015/05/04/avalancha-barro-piedras-arraso-valle/1751007.html

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The post-earthquake management of Nepal, in question.

http://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2015/05/15/5555da4222601dc97b8b457f.html

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The dogs that smell life and death in Kathmandu.

http://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2015/04/29/5540c76e22601d4e3e8b456e.html

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Interview Tv Girona to Lourdes Soro and Valentin Perez (in Catalan).

http://youtu.be/sTYtsgWzV40

 

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