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Thursday 29 September 2016

Cruel earthquake hoax shows nation living on the edge

Irish Independent reporter Jason O'Brien and photographer Mark Condren report on the enduring fear in Nepal

Jason O'Brien and Mark Condren in Kathmandu

Published 01/05/2015 | 02:30

Armed Police in Kathmandu, Nepal plead with the public to disperse after a hoax earthquake prediction.
Pic:Mark Condren
Armed Police in Kathmandu, Nepal plead with the public to disperse after a hoax earthquake prediction. Pic:Mark Condren
Searching goes on in Kathmandu five days after the earthquake hit the region. Picture: Mark Condren
Searching goes on in Kathmandu five days after the earthquake hit the region. Picture: Mark Condren

THOUSANDS of people spilled out onto the streets of Kathmandu last night after a bizarre earthquake hoax which eventually forced the police to plead with crowds to disperse.

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The number of people living on the streets of the capital since Saturday's quake had dropped considerably on Wednesday as the strength and regularity of aftershocks continued to fall - giving many confidence to return to their homes.

The Mount Everest south base camp in Nepal is seen a day after a huge earthquake-caused avalanche killed at least 17 people, in this photo courtesy of 6summitschallenge.com taken on April 26, 2015 and released on April 27, 2015. REUTERS/6summitschallenge.com
The Mount Everest south base camp in Nepal is seen a day after a huge earthquake-caused avalanche killed at least 17 people, in this photo courtesy of 6summitschallenge.com taken on April 26, 2015 and released on April 27, 2015. REUTERS/6summitschallenge.com
A Nepalese boy talks on a mobile phone near a damaged minaret of a mosque in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, April 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Tourists from Vietnam access the Internet from their mobile phones while waiting for their flight at Tribhuvan International Airport after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
National Disaster Response Force from Indian paramilitary force works to recover the dead bodies from a collapsed house after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
Tourists stand in front of the Departure gate of Tribhuvan International Airport as they wait for their flight after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
An Indian woman cries as she waits to take a flight back to her country after an earthquake at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
A girl cries as her family takes refuge at Tribhuvan International Airport after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
Tourists wait to board their flights at Tribhuvan International Airport after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
Tourists wait to board their flights at Tribhuvan International Airport after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
A tourist from the Netherlands waiting for her flight sleeps in a sleeping bag at Tribhuvan International Airport after returning from the Everest Base in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
An Australian tourist reads a book as she waits for her flight at Tribhuvan International Airport after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
People sleep on the ground in an open area on early morning after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
An earthquake victim carries her baby on her back as she stands outside her makeshift shelter on open ground in the early hours in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A man prays next to rubble of a temple, destroyed in Saturday's earthquake, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
A prayer bell is seen on top of the rubble of a damaged temple after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Royal Thai Air Force personnel load food and relief supplies for Nepal at the military airport in Bangkok, Thailand, April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Thai Armed Forces medical team walk to a C-130 cargo plane at the military airport in Bangkok, Thailand, April 28, 2015. The Royal Thai Armed Forces sent 67 medical and rescue personnel to assist the earthquake victims in Nepal, according to The Royal Thai Armed Forces authorities. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
Thai Armed Forces rescue team prepare to board a C-130 cargo plane at the military airport in Bangkok, Thailand, April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom
People sleep inside a makeshift shelter on open ground, early morning after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
In this April 27, 2015 photo, locals watch rescue teams try to remove the body of a 12-year-old girl from a collapsed home in Kathmandu, Nepal. A strong earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley on Saturday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
People sit on the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal in this Red Cross handout picture taken on April 27, 2015. REUTERS/IFRC/Palani Mohan/Handout via Reuters
In this April 27, 2015 photo, rescue teams search for bodies in the collapsed Sitapyla church in Kathmandu, Nepal. A strong earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley on Saturday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
An earthquake victim carries her baby on her back as she stands outside her makeshift shelter on open ground in the early hours in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Tents are set up in an open area near multi-storey buildings following an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal in this Red Cross handout picture taken on April 27, 2015. REUTERS/IFRC/Palani Mohan/Handout via Reuters
People gather on a road as traffic is affected by a landslide caused by an earthquake, in Kurintar, Nepal April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
The Mount Everest south base camp in Nepal is seen a day after a huge earthquake-caused avalanche killed at least 17 people, in this photo courtesy of 6summitschallenge.com taken on April 26, 2015 and released on April 27, 2015. REUTERS/6summitschallenge.com
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Nepalese carry the body of their relative killed in the recent earthquake for cremation at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Nepalese people affected by the recent earthquake queue to receive food from a non governmental organization, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Nepalese soldiers carry a wounded man on a makeshift stretcher to a waiting Indian air force helicopter as they evacuate victims of Saturdays earthquake from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

But the fragile mindset of the city's population was revealed shortly before 5pm as streets and open spaces in Kathmandu suddenly became vastly more crowded than usual.

"They say there is going to be another earthquake before 7pm," hotel owner Om Shindur said, as he shepherded customers out of his guesthouse in Sundhara, Lalitpur.

"It is best that people are outside."

The erroneous belief that 'they' - or anyone - can predict an earthquake or aftershock to a specific date and time has gained credence largely off the back of a coincidence that saw a group of 50 scientists from around the world visit Kathmandu less than a fortnight ago to study its preparedness or otherwise for a quake.

Geologists had, in fact, been expecting a major shock in the region for up to five years beforehand.

The prediction for last night's supposed quake had come not from science, but from a man driving around parts of Kathmandu in a taxi and shouting through a microphone.

"We have arrested a man from Satdobato in Lalitpur," a police officer told the Irish Independent.

"It seems he may have been joking, but we are examining if his idea was some sort of robbery plan to get people out of their homes. Or he may not be okay, mentally."

People walk past a building that was damaged in an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
People walk past a building that was damaged in an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
A group of people gather outdoors as an earthquake hits Kathmandu city, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Debris lie at Durbar Square after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Rescuers look for victims under a building that collapsed after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Volunteers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher, recovered from the debris of a building that collapsed after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Volunteers work to remove debris at the historic Dharahara tower, a city landmark, after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Volunteers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher, recovered from the debris of a building that collapsed after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Volunteers work to remove debris at the historic Dharahara tower, a city landmark, after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
People gather in an intersection near a damaged building in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/Tashi Sherpa)
Climbers and guides carry an injured after an avalanche struck Everest Base Camp in Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. An avalanche triggered by a massive earthquake in Nepal smashed into a base camp between the Khumbu Icefall, a notoriously treacherous rugged area of collapsed ice and snow, and the base camp where most climbing expeditions are, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. (AP Photo/Pasang Dawa Sherpa)
This photo provided by Azim Afif shows the scene after an avalanche triggered by a massive earthquake swept across Everest Base Camp, Nepal on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Afif and his team of four others from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) all survived the avalanche. (Azim Afif via AP)
In this photo provided by Azim Afif a man approaches the scene after an avalanche triggered by a massive earthquake swept across Everest Base Camp, Nepal on Saturday, April 25, 2015. Afif and his team of four others from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) all survived the avalanche. (Azim Afif via AP)
Rescuers clear the debris at Durbar Sqaure after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
A Nepalese man stands with his dog as rescue workers remove debris at Durbar Square after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Volunteers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher, recovered from the debris of a building that collapsed after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
Rescuers remove debris at the historic Dharahara tower, a city landmark, after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)
A school student receives treatment at a hospital after he was injured in an earthquake in Motihari, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, Saturday, April 25, 2015. Officials say dozens have been killed and more injured in India in a powerful earthquake that struck neighboring Nepal. (Press Trust of India via AP) INDIA OUT
REFILE - ADDING ADDITIONAL INFORMATION People work to rescue trapped people inside a temple in Bashantapur Durbar Square after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling an historic 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Rescue workers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher, after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The 7.9 magnitude powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling an historic 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar TEMPLATE OUT
A boy smiles as he is rescued from a collapsed house after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling an historic 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
An excavator digs the rubble to search for the bodies after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling an historic 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
Rescue workers search for bodies as a stretcher is kept ready after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling an historic 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
A woman cries as her son was trapped inside a collapsed house after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The powerful earthquake struck Nepal and sent tremors through northern India on Saturday, killing hundreds of people, toppling an historic 19th-century tower in the capital Kathmandu and touching off a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
People rest on debris at Durbar Square after an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A strong magnitude-7.9 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, causing extensive damage with toppled walls and collapsed buildings, officials said. (AP Photo/ Niranjan Shrestha)

Whatever it was, the guy was effective, and his 'prediction' spread quickly through word of mouth and social media.

Intelligent, educated people were among the throngs who came outside, deferring to an understandable 'Better safe than sorry' attitude when questioned about their decision.

Fearing the numbers sleeping rough were set to shoot back up by thousands, armed police got a microphone themselves and started circling parts of the city, urging people back inside.

"That there is an earthquake coming is just a rumour - nobody can predict such things," one officer repeated over and over again.

"Please only listen to official news and the authorities, and please go back inside."

It was a bizarre, almost comical, sequence of events which perhaps gave an insight to the battered psychology of many Nepali after an incredibly difficult few days.

And this was only added to when there was a strong tremor at approximately 3am local time - which again led to many spending the rest of the night outside.

But an enduring hope - as well as the enduring fear highlighted by the hoax - has also been in evidence here.

A young man was prised from the rubble using a carjack - after surviving for five days by drinking water for wet clothes and eating clarified butter.

A huge crowd cheered as Pemba Lama emerged, blinking in the sunlight, yesterday morning.

The Irish Independent understands that a police officer in the Buspark area heard calls for help in the early hours of the morning as he patrolled, and alerted a search team.

Pemba was able to tell rescuers that two others trapped inside the building had been talking to him as recently as the night before, but rescuers have not made contact.

Not far away, a woman in her 30s, later identified as Krishna Devi Khadka was also rescued alive after the search time had to work past three bodies to get to her.

The miraculous rescues dominated the local news as the difficulty accessing remote villages near the mountainous border with Tibet continued.

With the roads still blocked, efforts to provide aid via helicopter yesterday were hampered by poor weather.

Some areas believed to have been badly affected by the quake are now going into their sixth day without outside assistance.

Meanwhile, the UN is warning that the airport at Kathmandu is “swamped” with aid containers full of food, medicines and tents, and increased pressure on the Nepal government to act.

*To donate to help Goal's work in Nepal please visit www.goalglobal.org

Irish Independent

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