By Nichola Jones, IFRC
As buildings began to crumble around him and the ground started to open beneath him, Mangal Kalasula ran. “Everything was falling down and the road split when the earthquake happened – it must have ruptured the water supply, there was so much water gushing through and shooting up in the air,” he says. But this isn’t the 7.8 magnitude quake that ravaged Nepal on April 25 he is talking about. The 88-year-old grandfather is one of the few who remember the country’s last major quake in 1934.
“I was six years old,” he says. “Our house was destroyed and here I am now, in the same situation again. But this time I am an old man – it is hard to believe I have seen this happen twice.”
This time he was at home. “I looked out of the window and saw everything shaking. I just grabbed a pillow from my bed and wrapped my arms around it, hoping it would protect my body if my house collapsed on me,” he says. “And then I closed my eyes.”
Mangal is among the 1,500 people who will be sleeping under canvas in the grounds of a school in Bhaktapur tonight. Tarpaulins and sheets strung with rope between trees have been sheltering some families for the last ten days but many have been without anything to protect them from the weather. This week the Nepal Red Cross Society has installed ten large tents to house 100 of the most vulnerable in the camp and in this case, it will be Mangal and other elderly people.
Community leader Robin Raya, who is living in the camp with his family, said: “We wanted to prioritise the older people – they’re very fragile. Many of them are suffering from chest infections and fevers after sleeping on the floor outside for nearly two weeks.
“These tents will make a difference – they’re not home but they are enough to protect the elderly as much as we can at this point.”
Mangal’s daughter Mangalaxmi Birbal fears for her father’s uncertain future on the aftermath of the disaster but believes he has a survivor’s spirit. “He used to tell me about the first earthquake when I was small so I grew up knowing what a disaster like that could do,” she says. “I’m worried about him – he is a strong man, but this stress is a massive strain on him and his health is already being affected.”
The tents are among 2,000 sent by the Red Cross Society of China which are being set up across the affected districts.