Thaxted student caught in Nepal earthquake relives moment tremors hit Kathmandu

The Tang Ting Twinning Association mobilised a fundraising appeal for the earthquake in Nepal within

The Tang Ting Twinning Association mobilised a fundraising appeal for the earthquake in Nepal within 24 hours. - Credit: Archant

A 25-year-old medical student working in Nepal at the time of the earthquake devastation has spoken of his ordeal.

Rakesh Khunti, whose parents Ashok and Devi own Guildhall Stores in Thaxted, was on the last day of a six week medical placement in Kathmandu when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the country.

“We were due to fly back that Saturday afternoon, it was just before we headed to the airport that the earthquake happened,” Rakesh, who was with fellow medical student Ciarán Boyle, said.

“When it first happened we didn’t know what was going on – neither of us had experienced an earthquake before. The whole room started shaking and it got worse and worse. Both doors of my wardrobe were flung open.

“We were in a daze, we didn’t know what was happening. Luckily we were on the ground floor so we could get out quickly.

“We walked down the corridor and everything was shaking. Then we could hear crashing in the reception, the glass cabinets had fallen over.

“Luckily there was a small garden at the hotel and we all stood in the middle so we were out of the way in case anything collapsed.

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“Our hotel didn’t collapse but it was shaking uncontrollably. We were really lucky that no one was hurt. The hotel managers had been in earthquakes before, but said this was the worst they’d experienced. They were visibly shocked and quite scared.”

Later, the pair headed to the airport, hoping to still catch their flights out – but found that the airport was closed and the majority of flights cancelled.

Along with hundreds of others, many injured from the devastation, they were forced to sleep in the airport car park for two nights, with nothing but coats as their bedding. They finally flew back on Monday evening, via India and Dubai, arriving in Birmingham on Tuesday night.

“We left him messages but there was no internet or electricity,” Rajesh’s father Ashok added. “We finally got a message from him on Sunday night saying he was alright, but we don’t know anything more.

“He is safe and sound now. We are so pleased he is okay.”

Another survivor of the tragedy which claimed at least 4,500 victims was an adventurer from Great Chrishill attempting to climb Mount Everest. The earthquake triggered avalanches as well as a 6.7-magnitude aftershock on Sunday, causing 18 fatalities.

Jo Bradshaw, 44, was in the acclimatisation stage of her attempt to become the first woman to scale both Everest and Lohtse – the fourth highest mountain in the world – before intending to make the full journey to the top of Everest from May 6.

At least three sherpas from Jo’s team are reported to have died, and a number of others, so far unconfirmed.

“The past few days have been scary as hell,” wrote Jo’s climbing partner and 360 Expeditions founder Rolfe Oostra on the team’s Facebook page.

“We were living on the edge with new tremors making C1 [Camp 1] unstable and causing avalanches. It has been nerve-wracking. The noises have been intense and trying to predicate directions of these knock-on avalanches has left us all frayed.

“There are bodies still lying covered in snow waiting to be airlifted out and there is debris all over a vast expanse. The visuals resemble how I would imagine a nuclear bomb site to be. My tent along with Tim’s, Ingo’s and Jo’s are gone, there is nothing left, only tatters caught on rocks. This is a small price to pay and I am fully aware of that. We are all digging looking for things with the knowledge that there are still people unaccounted for.”

Jo and Rolfe were due to leave basecamp by foot yesterday, and to fly back to their respective countries this weekend.

Also affected by the Nepal earthquake is a 65-year-old woman from Saffron Walden, who was feared missing. Marilyn Harnett, who is registered as born in the town, was listed as missing on the International Committee of the Red Cross’s website. However as the Reporter went to Press the Red Cross said she was “probably safe”.