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My thoughts turned to those whose houses had been destroyed in the recent earthquake and who were now living under tarpaulins, it would not be a pleasant night for them. And then I wondered how stable our tent would be if the soil became saturated, I didn’t get much sleep.
My colleague, Julie Bradley, from the American Red Cross and I spent the morning traveling from Kathmandu to a Japanese Red Cross hospital in Melamchi and the afternoon setting up a satellite communications system.
Our work was completed in good time, but as the darkening clouds gathered in the mid-afternoon we agreed to postpone our departure until the following day.
So much of the Nepalese terrain is steep-sided that landslips are common. We had already encountered a couple of slips caused by unstable ground and aftershocks a few days earlier when we travelled to a Norwegian Red Cross Hospital in Chuatara. The addition of heavy rainfall only made the likelihood of slips even greater.
When there is disaster on such a large scale and over such a large geographical area, Red Cross IT and Telecoms Emergency Response Unit (ITT ERU) aid workers from more than one country are required.
I am part of the ITT ERU that deployed three New Zealanders to Nepal, along with two aid workers from an American Red Cross ITT ERU. One of the great things about the unit is that most of our equipment and training is standardised. This enables us to set up systems as quickly as possible without having to read the instruction manuals of unfamiliar equipment.
Our choice of accommodation that night was limited. The Japanese Red Cross were staying in a meeting room in a nearby hotel. Our options were one of the rooms in the main building where I could see daylight through the cracks in the walls, we could put up a fly-sheet in the already crowded meeting room, or we could wait until dinner was over, pushing aside the tables and chairs and put the tents up on the concrete floor of an outside eating area.
The final option seemed to be the safest and potentially the most comfortable. The tin roof covering the dining area protecting our tents from the rain made them easier to pack the following morning, and it was the safest in terms of risk from aftershocks.
Our return journey to Kathmandu the following day was, thankfully, uneventful. The roads were more potholed and waterlogged than the day before, but there were no blockages, unlike the road to Dhuncha, another of our destinations, that was now blocked by several slips. That evening, as we had dinner, someone asked what to do in the event of a landslide. The only answer was to get the driver to put his foot down.
During our trip, we were accompanied by Mirna and Nina from the Finnish Red Cross communications team. Watch some of the work that we have all been doing here.
Thomas is working in Nepal as part of the New Zealand Red Cross delegate programme which has been running since 1960. Our aid worker programme is partly supported by funding from New Zealand Aid Programme through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.