BY: MATTHEW MCLOUGHLIN
“I was just below Everest Base Camp when the avalanche hit. I just barely escaped two collapsing buildings.”
At just 19-years old, Dylan Sartor stood in the shadow of the Himalayas, uninjured among the flattened houses and screaming voices of a nation reduced to rubble. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake had just sideswiped Kathmandu, Nepal, unleashing a devastation not seen by the country since 1934.
“The day before the earthquake hit, a man died while I was giving him CPR for other reasons.” The moment would serve as foreshadowing for what was about to occur.
Dylan had arrived in Kathmandu to volunteer in local hospitals, but never anticipated a sudden shrug of nature forcing him to pull rubble from the top of other buried humans with his bare hands.
“Imagine your bed starts to shake, then you get up and the floor is still shaking and the building sways. So you run outside to find the world around you is coming apart.”
Eighteen people died from avalanches, with 5057 recorded fatalities to date across Nepal, although Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said that the death toll could rise as high as 10,000, making it the deadliest natural disaster in Nepal’s history.
A Canadian Trooper, Dylan says that he feels like army training served him well saying, “It’s a react or die mentality.” Currently stranded in the mountainous region of Lukla by flight groundings, Dylan recounts the instance that sent civilians running for survival.
“I hustled my ass down from base camp to Namche to text my mother and father, helping those who were buried, carrying peoples’ bags so they could descend faster and letting people use my Nepali number to call their family. I hustled as fast as I could and descended in around 20 hrs.”
The UN stated that 8 million people have been affected and 1.4 million people are still in need of water and food assistance. The aftershocks have continued to shake the nation, leaving many citizens still afraid of returning home due to the onslaught of landslides. On Sunday, Nepal was again struck by a tremor of 6.7 magnitude.
Nepal lacked the infrastructure to cope with such a large natural disaster and is struggling to supply the heavily populated city of Kathmandu with the emergency resources it desperately needs.
“It doesn’t seem like a good response yet. Helicopters are bringing duffle bags down from Everest with bodies looking like they’ve just been stuffed in without care.” Dylan says.
The slow humanitarian response has left many of the displaced to take shelter in makeshift tents made of tarps, leaving many health experts worried about infectious diseases caused by lack of sanitation and wet weather that could lead to a health crisis and further fatalities.
Families have been forced to line up to cremate their dead on the spot to cope with the mounting bodies. Dylan’s itinerary was supposed to see him continue his medical volunteering in India, but with the state of Nepal he says his efforts may be better served in a nation that has been knocked to its knees.
“Shit happens. Such is life I suppose. I haven’t really had time to sit still and think about it yet. I’m more focused on others in need right now.”
Photos Courtesy of Dylan Sartor.