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Wasteland: A First Look

Five seconds changed everything: Quake survivors help the injured at Kathmandu hospital

‘After the Quake’ video by Aayush Niroula.

On April 25, Nepal was struck by a massive, 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated the area. Weeks later, on May 12, the region suffered from a second quake. The dual disasters killed at least 8,500, injured thousands, and left survivors afraid to sleep indoors. Together, the quakes are the deadliest-ever to have hit the country.

Kathmandu, the country’s capital, saw heavy fatalities. Only about 50 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, the city saw buildings collapse and is in shambles. People are afraid of another quake.

But despite all of this, just days after the quake, volunteers started pouring into Bir Hospital in Kathmandu. “My father is staff here so he was busy inside [the hospital]. I saw that there were a lot of patients coming in and not enough people to help. I started to lift and carry the patients,” Saral Aryal, 20, told film-maker Aayush Niroula, who spoke to volunteers at the hospital. Jugal Tandukar, 31, also helped: “ Four young guys were bringing in casualties all day, from one o’clock to four or five continuously, and seeing them we thought we should also do something. We could also do that much. So that’s why we helped.”

What started as a small group of independent volunteers quickly grew. “On the first day there were five of us, the next day it was 15-20, third day there were 60. Afterwards, we were 300 and I heard, even 600 of us.” Tandukar said. Niroula added: “On about the third day when they had a little time to reflect on their numbers and growth they also decided on a name, I to We.”

The volunteers worked ceaselessly to help the ill and injured. One, 29-year-old Arvind Pal, said he went days without food or water because he was so busy: “With the chaos going on, food was really not the priority.”

Now, says Niroula, there are fewer volunteers. The hospital is again run by staff, and the rush of incoming patients has slowed. But the volunteers appear committed, no matter what. “I hope this disaster goes away soon,” said Aryal. “But as long as it is here, there will always be help. I will at least always be helping.”

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