KATHMANDU: An American trekker stranded for five days in a remote part of Nepal by a massive earthquake has described watching boulders the size of minivans smash buildings in Langtang, a popular tourism area whose main village was wiped out by an avalanche.
Langtang, near the border with Tibet, was one of the areas worst hit by the April 25 quake that struck at the height of the spring trekking season, trapping hundreds of tourists and Nepalis in remote areas accessible only on foot or by helicopter.
BBC footage from Langtang broadcast Tuesday showed scenes of utter devastation, with houses razed and bodies laid out on tarpaulins on the desolate terrain, ringed by snow-capped mountains and dotted with Tibetan Buddhist stupas and prayer flags.
With information still emerging from the remote area it remains unclear how many people were killed, but local authorities have found 52 bodies including seven foreigners.
They estimate there could be more than 150 Nepalis and 100 tourists buried in Langtang village, which is home to around 400 people—mostly subsistence farmers or guest house workers.
Many of those there when the quake hit have now been airlifted out, among them US citizen Corey Ascolani, who spent five days in Langtang with other terrified trekkers and watched two helicopters come and go before he was finally rescued.
The 34-year-old former English teacher and avid hiker had stopped for a coffee at an outdoor teahouse in Bamboo village near the start of the trail when the ground began to shake, sending huge rocks hurtling down the cliffs on both sides of the gorge.
“We were running back and forth . . . the rocks just kept falling and it seemed like there was nowhere to go,” Ascolani told AFP in Kathmandu.
‘My nerves were shot’
Along with around 60 other tourists and 20 Nepalis, Ascolani was trapped in the gorge—unable to walk out because of constant rockfalls from the vertiginous slopes.
He described how they sheltered under boulders and rigged tarpaulins between trees to sleep under.
“It was very hard to sleep, I remember feeling every vibration in the ground . . . my nerves were shot, I slept maybe one hour that first night,” Ascolani said.
They boiled up muddy water from the river, filtering it using plastic bottles and gauze, and started their own fires. They built an outdoor privy using tarpaulin and a plastic chair with a hole in it—skills Ascolani says he learnt through the US television show “Survivor”.