Nepal earthquake: We passed by people who had just lost everything

The lives of so many Nepali people were devastated by the disaster. Credit: Rich Birkett

Rich Birkett was travelling around Nepal when the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit.

By Rich Birkett, British traveller

I've thought long and hard about how and when I tell my story of the past few days, but I guess I feel I should post this as to give my account of events on the ground during the quake and the days following.

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The lives of so many Nepali people were devastated by the disaster. Credit: Rich Birkett

I want to start by saying that the media coverage that I've managed to see over the past few days has focused very much on Kathmandu and Everest.

Whilst I understand these are the biggest news drivers, and where the pictures have come from, having been in Kathmandu for the over a day, it doesn't seem to be the worst-hit area, and the story about the absolutely devastated countryside is largely missing.

I want to tell my story, but only want to focus on what we've seen of the people.

We were on a bus on the way to Langtang National Park when the quake hit, about 50km (31 miles) from the epicentre, at about 2,000 metres (1.2 miles).

Rich Birkett was travelling by bus when the earthquake struck. Credit: Rich Birkett

We weren't sure what was happening at first, maybe the bus was going over the cliff, but as the quake got worse and the shaking became very violent it became clear.

People in the small village in which we had stopped began running out of their houses. The village itself lost houses that slid down the mountain, and shortly afterwards ambulances and jeeps were screaming past, along with motorcycles carrying injured to the nearest town.

We waited in the village for a few hours with many terrified villagers. When we felt it was safer, we started to make our way on foot down the mountain through many small villages that were completely destroyed.

Many houses were completely destroyed by the earthquake. Credit: Rich Birkett

We looked helplessly as we passed by people who had just lost everything. Stopping occasionally to talk to anyone who spoke English, we heard of many deaths, many injuries, mainly broken limbs and lacerations, along with many animals lost that form the basis of most livelihoods.

We followed a valley to a town called Trishuli, which was hit hard and resembled a small war zone. We stopped in the town in a small refuge centre in the back of a hotel for the night, and two nurses we were with gave first aid to locals.

The locals were amazing and happy to provide us with a place to sleep and food.

The night was full of aftershocks and we didn't sleep much but pressed on the next morning. Not far down the road we found a makeshift medical station on the street outside a pharmacy.

Villagers had to be treated on the streets after the hospital collapsed. Credit: Rich Birkett

The local hospital had collapsed and they were making do on the street, which was littered in medical packaging from the previous day.

The nurses we were with started again giving medical aid to locals with injuries, largely cuts and eye injuries.

For a while we debated taking a young girl with a bad eye injury with us to try and find a hospital as the nurses thought she could lose the eye, but we couldn't help her, and there was not suitable medical aid available locally.

We then hitchhiked about 10km (6.2 miles) along through many small villages also badly affected. At this point the road was blocked. The quake had thrown boulders the size of vans into the road, along with many landslides of mud and trees.

Buildings along the route had collapsed, leaving many homeless. Credit: Rich Birkett

This will take many days to clear to allow medical supplies and food to reach the badly-affected areas.

We proceeded on foot for 35km (22 mile) to a village called Kakani where a local family found us a scout tent to sleep in for the night.

During the course of the walk we were on steep mountain roads with ongoing quakes, including the second big quake which was very dangerous and extremely scary. Rocks could fall from above at any point and we would have nowhere to hide.

Boulders littered the road, making travelling extremely dangerous. Credit: Rich Birkett

We also came across a bus that had been hit by a number of large boulders. Inside were at least three bodies that were beginning to putrefy in the heat and attracting flies - pretty horrific.

The police had neither the machinery nor means to get them out.

All of the traditional stone and mud buildings are heavily damaged, 10-20% are completely flattened and the rest missing walls, roofs, corners and floors. Many of the mountain homes were built on stilts which have given way.

The damage is no less than catastrophic, and with roads blocked the emergency services are unable to reach them. Many of the buildings that are still standing are now beyond repair and too precarious for fixing, or even in some cases entering.

Rich heard of of many deaths and injuries on journey around Nepal. Credit: Rich Birkett

We've seen and heard of many, many deaths and injuries, and seen numerous funeral pyres being lit. Injuries are being treated very slowly in a makeshift way and hospitals are full to bursting if they haven't collapsed.

The next morning we hitchhiked back to Kathmandu and spent the next day or so organising flights.

I have to say that help from my insurance company was terrible. They wouldn't help at all, and I will be making a very strongly worded complaint when I have a chance.

Many travellers had their flights arranged by insurance companies or governments, and whilst the British Embassy did provide a place to sleep and food/water, at the time I visited they were not providing any evacuation.

Luckily we found a great hostel with a garage that gave us a place to stay for the night.

We went the next day to Dharahara Tower - which I had climbed less than 24 hours before the quake - and Dunbar Square, which are completely destroyed and teams were still digging, but many of the buildings in Kathmandu are built with reinforced concrete and have survived.

Areas of Nepal are completely devastated following the deadly quake. Credit: Rich Birkett

Considering the damage we'd seen in the country we were genuinely surprised at the situation in Kathmandu.

The main issue now is water, food and shelter. Even in Kathmandu we were starting to struggle to find bottled water and whilst the running water was on again it has been contaminated with sewage. Very scary.

Many people are living in "tents" made from plastic tarpaulins and the weather would turn to thunderstorms regularly. Lack of basic sanitation and disposal of rubbish could lead quickly to the spread of disease.

I was lucky enough to be able to book a flight out to Delhi, but there were many people of all nationalities waiting outside the airport for any flight that they could get.

Our story is a lucky one, but please donate anything you can spare to avert what will quickly become a major humanitarian disaster.

These are the views of British traveller Rich Birkett, and do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.