Nepal Earthquake Survivor Recounts Terror of Disaster

A Cambodian man who survived the devastating earthquake that killed thousands of people in Nepal last weekend has recounted the terror he felt when the 7.8 magnitude quake struck.

Khuon Sopheak, 35, a senior officer for the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) was caught up in the disaster while in Katmandu for a yearlong media and human rights re­search program. 

“On Saturday last week, after I finished the housework…I heard a big sound and then a strong shaking happened,” he said in an interview Friday, less than 24 hours after landing back in Phnom Penh.

“I left from [the] third floor—I thought that I would die in the apartment—but when I reached [the] ground floor it seemed like I was born again.”

Although Mr. Sopheak, who had been living in Nepal since August last year, escaped unharmed, others were not so lucky.

According to a report by the Guardian newspaper on Friday, government officials have confirmed that the death toll has passed 6,000, with many thousands of other people still missing.

A further 13,900 were injured in the quake, the newspaper reported, which caused billions of dollars worth of damage to schools, hospitals, homes and offices.

Just 500 meters away from his own apartment, which survived the quake, Mr. Sopheak saw that two other buildings had collapsed.

“After the earthquake, the Ne­palese people around me did not know what to do. I used to do some research on disasters, so I told them ‘everybody move’ and I also helped two Nepalese people out from the apartment,” he said.

Mr. Sopheak added that immediately following the massive quake, limited assistance was available to the victims. He lived in a tent for several days in the capital—along with many others who camped out after losing their homes or through fear of aftershocks—before managing to get a flight out of Katmandu’s damaged airport Wednesday and returning to Phnom Penh Thurs­day evening.

“I needed to come back be­cause Nepal is facing big problems such as food shortages, ac­commodation and the situation [is] still not stable,” he said, adding that he was likely to finish the remaining three months of his program from Cambodia.

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