Dharan town and the hill villages of East Nepal were in deep slumber. Then came an ominous rumbling, followed by violent jerking of the ground. Amidst collapsed houses and landslides, there were cries of pain and sudden death. As the dust subsided, neighbour helped neighbour and children dragged their parents out of the rubble. While strongly built dwellings survived with only cracks, thousands of others collapsed.
For days afterwards,rescue and health workers toiled heroically. Fortuitously, the quake´s worst impact was felt at the home base of the British Gurkha camp, whose medical facilitates helped save lives. While it was the stricken people of east Nepal who paid the price this time, the message was there for the millions across the Himalaya. The Sankhamul bridge in Kathmandu, weakened by the quake, collapsed a few days later.
In Bhaktapur, a survivor is dwarfed by the destruction of the night before. Elsewhere, rescue workers dig through the rubble. Sooner or later, the rock strata underneath the Himalaya will turn yet again, perhaps to shatter the city center of Kathmandu, Srinagar or Peshawar, or send crashing entire villages. Urban space and housing must be designed to withstand earthquakes. Those who would build highways and high dams must first understand geology.
Occasionally, the earth sends a message and that message is best heeded. As this historical picture of Bhaktapur after the 1934 earthquake shows, it could have been much, much worse in 1988.
~Pictures by Kevin Bubrisky and Gopal Chitrakar