Cranbrook residents Anne Coulter and Jim Campbell are back in contact with friends and family after a harrowing experience in Nepal. Coulter and Campbell were caught up in the earthquake that devastated the Himalayan country Saturday, and were also hit by a subsequent avalanche.
Coulter explained in a letter posted on social media that she had just made it back to Katmandu, and was waiting for Campbell to join her. Coulter had injured her ankle in the avalanche, and was airlifted back to the city separately.
Coulter wrote of what happened when the avalanche struck.
“Jim and I were having a lovely trek up the beautiful Langtang valley and had just arrived at the upper village of Kygin Gompa and were in the process of ordering lunch when the quake hit. There was a tremendous noise and the walls started to crumble and the floor was shaking back and forth like we were sand being sifted.”
They made it out into the open, but found themselves in the path of the avalanche.
“Nima (their guide) yelled and we all ran for cover and made it behind the same teahouse just in time,” Coulter wrote. “I tried to crawl under a bench as stone from the walls were crashing down on top of me but my legs stuck out and that’s when my ankle got injured — not broken but bruised and swollen and sore — good enough to get me on the last helicopter flight on Monday.”
Coulter, Campbell and Nima then dug out a friend from Sweden, and started making their way back to the village of Langtang, thinking the larger town would be a better place to be.
“We had to take cover behind large boulders when the aftershocks occurred and rocks falls happened,” Coulter wrote. “(We) then tried to help a very badly injured tourist into a still standing structure and then found out that Langtang village had been completely wiped out by an enormous avalanche.
“It is doubtful that anyone who had been in the village, tourist or local, has survived.”
There was one structure at the top of the hill — a medical centre that had been built to withstand earthquakes. The roof had been blown off by the avalanche but the walls were perfect, Coulter wrote. That’s where they spent the night.
It had snowed heavily since the quake, Coulter wrote, and everything was soaking.
“There was a very badly injured girl that we tucked into my sleeping bag and thermorest, so glad I had bothered to take it. Then we just gathered wood and tried to keep our spirits up and hope more people made it down.”
Survivors kept trickling in throughout the night.
An army helicopter arrived in the morning, after a cold, rainy night, and started ferrying the injured out to safety. Coulter and Campbell ended up spending another night at the shelter. “We had built a roof overhead so we were drier at least,” Coulter wrote. “Eating consisted of group rice eaten from a bag and using your hands … some treats we still had left and what ever anyone else had to share.
“Monday rolled around, and when the chopper came for the last run of the day (the weather had been very iffy with lots of mist and low clouds) and they made room for the somewhat injured. So Nima showed off my lovely purple ankle and I got on board leaving Jim and Nima and all our new friends behind.”
In Katmandu, Coulter was given a tent to sleep in (everyone was sleeping outside, COulter wrote, in case buildings collapsed), and “food and so much kindness.”
As of her writing the letter, Coulter was still waiting for Campbell to get out, but wanted to assure friends and family that she was fine.