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Nepal earthquake: eyewitness account from UK student in Kathmandu

26 April 2015 - Nicholas Roxburgh, a 26-year-old PhD student from Ormskirk, Lancashire, was in Kathmandu near the epicentre of the earthquake when disaster struck.

Nicholas has lived in Nepal for nine months, based in the rural area of Dolakha while working on a PhD exploring rural water system management in rural Nepal: he was due to return to the UK on Tuesday. Nicholas' brother Alasdair Roxburgh is Campaigns Manager at Christian Aid.

Here, Nicholas describes his experiences of the earthquake and its aftermath.

A group of people in the aftermath of the earthquake

The building in Kathmandu around me began to sway as I sat at my desk working. At first it was gentle, but then it grew more violent. I ran to the bathroom and threw myself on the floor. Dust and plaster from the ceiling began to fall around me as the quake continued. Fearing the building would collapse I made the decision to move. Keeping down on the floor I got myself under the desk, where I stayed until the movement stopped.

I immediately grabbed my bag and headed for an exit. Moving down the stairs from the third floor I made my way through dust and debris to the front door and out onto the street. Initially there was an eerie calm before people began to cautiously emerge, dust filling the streets.

Just a few doors down from the building where I had been staying, a hospital stood – relatively undamaged, its staff out on the street fearing collapse. Within minutes injured people began to arrive, in cars, taxis, on foot, being carried by others.

It was immediately clear there had been casualties. The lifeless bodies of two young children were carried in, while countless others arrived with a variety of horrific injuries – many having been hurt by falling masonry, others having been pulled from collapsed buildings.

I made the decision to head to the British embassy, passing a collapsed building on the way where people pulled at the broken remains looking for those buried beneath. They thought at least seven had been killed there, with just a sole survivor being rescued from the rubble.

Having arrived at the embassy I tried to make myself useful – helping to cook for those arriving and transcribing messages. Communications can be hard in Nepal at the best of times and the quake had knocked out the phone network and internet access.

As night fell, many crowded into the few areas of open space in Kathmandu, using tarpauling as a temporary shelter against the elements.

As dawn broke on Sunday the regular aftershocks continued to rock the city, each one sending people running for cover. During the day it began to rain, leaving those who have been left homeless - or too fearful to return to their homes - exposed in the cold wet weather.

People have spent the day working together to find survivors in collapsed buildings, sharing water and food where they can, and forming temporary shelters.

As I write this evening, the rain continues to pour onto the canvas above me as aftershocks continue. I’ve lived here for nine months now working in rural Nepal, close to the epicentre of the earthquake, in an area called Dolakha.

While much of the media attention has focused on the capital city and on Everest, I fear for those living in these more isolated areas. Communications to these remote rural regions are poor, but I understand that there have been landslips. Access to these areas is tricky and I can only imagine the urgent needs they must be facing now.

For this country, the immediate need is clear – shelter, food and water, along with support that will help rebuild this beautiful country.

Christian Aid has launched an emergency appeal to provide urgent relief to victims of the earthquake, working through local partner agencies. To find out more visit the Christian Aid website.

Photographs of Nicholas are available here. If you would like further information please contact Tomi Ajayi: 24-hour press duty phone, 07850 242950; office line: 0207 523 2427.

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