Local News

Sanford man on mission trip survives Nepal's devastating earthquake

Posted April 30, 2015 8:03 p.m. EDT

— Rich Kirik was setting up a water filtration system in Bharatpur, Nepal when the ground shook beneath him.

Kirik, an engineer from Sanford, traveled to Nepal earlier this month for a mission trip to set up the systems inside safe houses for human trafficking victims.

He was surprised by how long the 7.8 magnitude earthquake lasted – about 90 seconds.

"It was more of a sliding back and forth," he said. "It wasn't shaking like I would picture it shaking. It was more of a sliding back and forth. It was weird."

When the shaking stopped, Kirik said the director of the safe house described the quake as "really big" and that he would not be surprised if it killed a million people.

More than 5,500 people have died from the earthquake and thousands more suffered injuries. It hit about 50 miles northwest of Kathmandu and it was the world’s largest shallow quake since an 8.2 magnitude quake off Chile’s cost in April 2014, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It was hard for Kirik to immediately grasp the magnitude of the quake because there was little visible damage, he said. After about 30 minutes, he went back to work.

"I had a mission to accomplish and we were going to get it done," he said.

There were several aftershocks, but Kirik said he did not get a true sense of the devastation until he flew over Kathmandu.

"We saw tents everywhere because one the earthquake hit people were done going inside, they would not sleep inside," he said.

After seeing the chaos, Kirik, who returned to work on Thursday, said he did not feel fear.

"At one point I thought I should be more afraid, but I thought even if I died, I died doing what I wanted to do - which was making a difference in the world," he said.