Nepal earthquake: Out-of-towners unable to leave Kathmandu Valley due to lack of vehicles

KATHMANDU (THE KATHMANDU POST) - Ms Harimaya Thapaliya, with her three daughters in tow, waited for nearly eight hours at the Kalanki district of Kathmandu on Monday, hoping to catch a bus to Biratnagar, her home town. A few buses drove past, but none stopped.

"All the buses were already full with passengers," said the 37-year-old mother. "I lost all my belongings in the earthquake and now I would like to go home, be with my family at this hour."

Ms Harimaya and her three children were at the Central Zoo in Jawalakhel town of Lalitpur district when the magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck Nepal on Saturday noon. The house where Ms Harimaya had lived on rent was reduced to rubble.

She and her children spent two nights at Tundikhel, a large grass-covered ground in the centre of Kathmandu, under the open sky, scared for their lives as series of aftershocks continued to rattle Kathmandu Valley and the districts nearby.

"We left Tundikhel and headed for Kalanki early in the morning to board a bus to Biratnagar, where my husband and in-laws are waiting for us. But not a single bus stopped for us," said Ms Harimaya, who has decided to stay put at Kalanki until she gets the bus that would take her and her three daughters home.

Like Ms Harimaya and her children, scores of people from outside Kathmandu Valley waited, in vain, at Kalanki for passenger buses to take them home.

Mr Suraj Khanal, 25, of Fujel, Gorkha, could not get a bus as well. He said his parents and younger sister have not been contactable for the past two days, and that he is worried about their well-being.

"Even the phones of my relatives and neighbours are switched off," Mr Khanal lamented. "My elder brother who lived with me in Kathmandu left for Gorkha on foot yesterday, now even he is out of contact.

Ms Sapana Kharel, who had come to Kathmandu from Palpa to prepare for the IELTS test, said she could not even get a taxi, let alone a bus.

"My parents are worried and I am scared," said the 21-year-old.

Following Saturday's earthquake , the number of people trying to leave the valley has increased dramatically. But many of them are unable to leave because many buses that were supposed to arrive in Kathmandu from different parts of the country cancelled their scheduled trips in the wake of the earthquake .

Mr Tulasi Prasad Sitaula, secretary at the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation, said even taxis are hard to find as most of the taxi drivers in Kathmandu are from places like Sindhupalchok, Kavre, Dolakha and Ramechhap, which were severely affected by the earthquake, and they have left for their homes to be with their families.

"It would take at least two more days for transportation system to return to normalcy. To that end, the government has decided to mobilise 350 buses from outside the Valley.

"These buses will not require route permits to make the trips," Mr Sitaula said.