World Vision U.S. staffer Matt Stephens was in Nepal last week for a conference. On Saturday, he was standing in Durbar Square in Bhaktapur where the photo above was taken.
At 11:40 on Saturday morning, I was sitting with two World Vision colleagues on a rooftop café enjoying the views of Durbar square in Nepal’s historic city of Bhaktapur. Less than 10 minutes later, an earthquake like none seen in this country since 1934 ravaged the historic city and much of the rest of the country—leaving the places and the lives of the people here forever changed.
The earthquake struck at 11:51 AM local time on a Saturday—a day when tourists and locals alike had filled the streets of Bhaktapur to enjoy the city’s rich 1,000-year history in public. I had come to Nepal with World Vision and had just finished participating in a regional child protection conference in Nagarkot, where over 40 World Vision staff had gathered from more than 17 countries to coordinate the region’s child protection and advocacy strategies. On this Saturday, my colleagues and I were were preparing to depart for our homes, and using our last hours in Nepal to see the amazing historic sites.
The day will forever be etched in my memory.
In one moment, I sat with three colleagues discussing our work and our future on a rooftop overlooking the historic square. We had left the balcony and returned to a narrow alley connecting the two major squares when the ground began to shake. In this moment, surrounded on both sides by centuries-old buildings, a sense of acute claustrophobia enveloped us and we realized that there would be no place to run.
The shaking began slowly—giving the three of us time to brace in the doorway of a local shop—before it intensified and became something I can only describe as unbelievably violent. Around us, windows shattered, shelves and fixtures fell, and walls toppled down less than 50 feet away. We would discover quite shortly after that in the center of Bhaktapur square, a towering temple (stupa) some 1,000 years old, had toppled down where we had stood not 30 minutes before.
After the shaking subsided, we followed the lead of dozens of others and ran over the scattered debris and fallen walls to the central square, where we witnessed the destruction firsthand. Between two destroyed stupas, hundreds huddled and fearfully peered through the overwhelming dust in the air and waiting for the next aftershock—which came wave after wave for the next 90 minutes. We also bore witness, unfortunately, to dozens of injured adults and children being carried from the square in the arms of the unlikely rescuers and precariously perched on the backs of their speeding motorbikes.
By God’s grace, we accounted for all of our World Vision group visiting Bhaktapur that day, and left by taxi to return to Kathmandu and connect with our larger team. Driving through the countryside, we witnessed the devastation that had visited Nepal: collapsed buildings, destroyed homes, cracked roads … and, sadly, hospitals overwhelmed with rows of survivors lining the sidewalks.
Our group was fortunate. Though we have slept on the floor of a hotel lobby for two nights after our rooms were deemed unsafe and have lived with the fear of aftershocks (which have been constant and varying in severity), for hundreds of thousands of Nepalese people, their world has been forever altered.
At present, more than 4,000 have been confirmed dead, and that number is climbing. Tens of thousands with damaged houses are sleeping in the streets, parks, and gardens in cold and rainy conditions. Food and water supplies are seriously disrupted.
World Vision is rushing to respond, but the need is enormous. Pray for the people and the children of Nepal—for the lives and health of those affected, and for the energy and resilience of those who are trying to help.
With more than 4,000 lives lost, survivors in fear of continuing aftershocks, and relief supplies already running low, World Vision is on the ground helping. Join us in providing relief to children and families in Nepal.