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Asia

Aftershocks trigger 'chaos and panic' in Nepal

A day after a massive quake in Nepal claimed more than 2,000 lives, the region is still facing strong aftershocks. Journalist and Kathmandu resident Shiwani Neupane tells DW how people are coping with the situation.

A powerful magnitude-6.7 aftershock shook the Kathmandu region of the Himalayan nation of Nepal on Sunday, just a day after an even stronger earthquake struck the area. Centered around the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years, killing more than 2,000 people in the region and destroying infrastructure and homes. The quake was felt across several nations, including Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

In a DW interview, journalist and Kathmandu resident Shiwani Neupane speaks about the impact the massive aftershocks are having on people and how they are dealing with the increasingly difficult situation.

DW: Several aftershocks have been recorded in the region, some of them very strong. What impact are these tremors having?

Shiwani Neupane

Shiwani Neupane

Shiwani Neupane: I was on the streets when the latest strong aftershock - 6.7 in magnitude - struck the Kathmandu area. By that time, a lot of people had begun to assume the worst was behind them and that they could soon return to their homes - should they still be standing.

But when this new quake hit, it triggered panic, chaos and paranoia. People - some of them carrying small children - started yelling and running for open ground. They are now camped outside, increasingly fearful of potential future aftershocks.

Nepalese media have reported that the latest aftershock may have also claimed hundreds of lives near its epicenter, as it triggered landslides in the surrounding area. It is yet unclear, however, how many lives have been lost. The "second quake" - as many people are now calling the aftershock - also caused severe structural damage, given that many of the buildings that had only cracked during the first quake have now collapsed.

One day after the 7.8-magnitude quake, how have the authorities responded?

The authorities are currently doing their best to respond. Doctors and nurses are on the ground tending to the sick and injured. They are working overtime, and are often exhausted. But the problem is that there are still people either stuck in their collapsed homes or buried under the rubble. As almost everyone has been a victim of this disaster, most people are focused on tending to their loved ones first.

What major obstacles are search-and-rescue teams facing?

At the moment, the aftershocks and the ensuing damage and chaos are the major obstacles for aid relief teams. Many roads have now been cleared for transportation, allowing rescue teams not only to reach the injured, but also to travel to other affected parts of the country. Of course, this has not been the case everywhere in the country, as regions near the epicenter, such as Kaski, Gorkha and Lamjung, have been severely damaged.

Where did most people spend the first night after the quake?

Most people were forced to sleep outdoors last night. Many of them spent the cold night at a large public space, right in the center of Kathmandu, while others camped out anywhere they could find an open patch of grass. Very few people slept indoors, including myself.

Has international aid reached those most in need?

India has been very active in delivering aid and helping out with relief efforts. Planes and helicopters carrying equipment and supplies have begun to arrive. We have also received sympathy and condolences from our Indian neighbors.

However, the extent of the damage is very large, especially in the villages around Kathmandu, so much more aid will be needed in the coming days. The key question is when it will get there.

Kathmandu resident Shiwani Neupane is a freelance journalist and novelist from Nepal. She is a co-founder of Story South Asia, a website dedicated to South Asian affairs.

The interview was conducted by Gabriel Domínguez.

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