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Raleigh woman in Nepal 'overwhelmed' by toll of powerful earthquake

Posted April 25, 2015

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— After a quiet morning spent on a river in the mountains of Nepal, Raleigh native Jennifer Farrell said flying rocks and boulders were the first sign of trouble as she and her friends drove down a winding mountain road when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region.

Farrell spoke with WRAL via Skype several hours after the quake hit, saying she and her friends witnessed "overwhelming" scenes of damage on their drive back into Kathmandu from the Annapurna area, a mountainous region of northwestern Nepal.

"We had a really nice morning riding a boat along a peaceful river, and the next thing you know boulders are falling from the sky," she said. "I'm feeling extremely grateful to be alive and safe, but it's frightening."

Farrell, a fourth-year medical student at Tulane University, traveled to the region to train first responders in both Bangladesh and Nepal and implement an app that helps assist volunteer first responders in crowded cities. Farrell said she received messages from friends hundreds of miles away in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that felt the earthquake, another indication of its strength.

"I have never experienced something to this degree," she said. "I've trained thousands of first responders, but this is the first time I've been in this type of disaster."

After the earthquake, Farrell and two friends were stranded on a narrow mountain road for about five hours due to a large landslide. Once the rocks were cleared, the group began a slow journey back to Nepal's capital and began to see some of the extensive damage.

"Some of the houses were built on cliffs, and you could see the bodies scattered on the sides of mountains," she said. "When we got closer into town, we saw children and adults. There were tarps put out so they could identify bodies. A lot of buildings were crushed to the ground."

As of mid-afternoon Saturday, more than 1,180 people were confirmed dead in the quake. Hundreds of thousands were without power, which was the strongest to hit the region in more than 80 years.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude of the quake at 7.8. It said the quake hit about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu. Its depth was only 11 kilometers (7 miles), the largest shallow quake since the 8.2 temblor off the coast of Chile on April 1, 2014. The shallower the quake the more destructive power it carries.

Farrell said strong aftershocks continued throughout the afternoon and evening in Kathmandu. The earthquake happened at about noon local time, and more than two dozen aftershocks have been reported.

"People are still really shaken up. We're getting news second hand right now. Everybody was kind of coming outside, coming together, leaving buildings because they were unsure if they were safe," Farrell said. "Everyone is in the same boat right now, whether they're local people or not. Everybody is trying to be together and figure out the next steps."

Farrell was able to speak with her parents via text message and Skype, and she said the training work she had planned to do in Nepal will likely be delayed because her colleagues are not able to get to the country.

Farrell had planned to stay in the area through the second week of May, but she said her plans are up in the air because the airport has been closed.

Farrell, who graduated from Duke University in 2004, founded her mobile app CriticaLink in 2014. The app teaches emergency medical skills to help control bleeding, splint fractures and more, and it uses location-based technology to dispatch volunteers to the scene of wrecks and other emergencies.


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  • Quid Malmborg Apr 26, 2015
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    The $2B/week spent on drone strikes benefits the military-industrial complex and the economy (jobs), and ostensibly fights terrorism. The $1M spent on aid to Nepal is just the US being a good world citizen. With Republicans controlling both the House and Senate the real surprise is that the US is giving anything to Nepal.

  • Bob Bruck Apr 25, 2015
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    The US Government has pledged $1M in assistance to Nepal while we spend $2B a week drone killing people in the Middle East? Is there something wrong with this story??? Huh?