AN AUDIOLOGIST who has just returned home after volunteering in Nepal took off in a plane just moments after a savage earthquake hit, leaving him to witness the devastation below.
Iain Norquay, 47, from Ford Lane, Arundel, was volunteering for two weeks, providing hearing aids to poor people, before his flight home on Saturday.
He was waiting to take off when the magnitude 7.9 quake struck.
“The plane started shaking backwards and forwards and side to side,” he said.
“I looked out the window and the plane next to us was shaking so much that the tips of the wings were nearly touching the tarmac.
“None of us knew. We knew it was an earthquake but we thought, this is Nepal, they probably get earthquakes all the time.
“The pilot even said ‘sorry for the delay, we’ve had a minor quake’.
“We had to leave the plane and sit on the runway while they checked for cracks in the tarmac. There were a few aftershocks but the airport and control tower were modern, reinforced concrete buildings so they weren’t affected.
“It was only when we flew over Kathmandu we realised the devastation.”
As they flew over the capital, they witnessed the destruction which had ensued in the past few hours.
“There were buildings with roofs fallen in, bricks all over the place, lots of buildings had fallen down.
“In some buildings the foundations had collapsed so they were tilting on a 45 degree angle.
“Only one hour before I was shopping in Durbar Square. That’s been bulldozed.
“I was just incredibly lucky. If I had been there a couple of hours later, I could have been killed as well.”
He discovered, once he was home, that the guests in his hotel had to sleep on the ground that night.
He now realises that the photos he took are some of the last taken of the temples which were destroyed by the quake or bulldozed in an effort to find survivors.
It was the first time Iain had travelled to the country and he was there as part of a charity initiative with INF.org to treat people for hearing problems, caused by prolonged exposure to smoke because they are not educated about the use of chimneys.
He worked in a hospital which the local children would walk for days to get to.
Although that hospital was on the outskirts of the disaster zone, Iain said he knew its roads would be destroyed and they would be cut off from all food and water.
“There’s going to be starvation everywhere.”
More than 5,000 people were injured and thousands are living in tents after their homes were destroyed.
Dozens of people are also reported to have been killed in neighbouring China and India.