A father and son from Louth have spoken of their lucky escape after the deadly Nepal earthquake struck while they were visiting Kathmandu.
Howard Grace, 54, was visiting the city with his eldest son William, 22, on a final adventure holiday together before William moved down to London to start a new job.
Their two week trip was drawing to a close when the disaster struck just before midday on Saturday April 25.
The devastating earthquake and subsequent aftershocks have already claimed more than 5,000 lives, with the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala warning that the overall death toll could reach 10,000.
At the moment the earthquake struck, Howard and William were in a shop in Kathmandu’s old town browsing for gifts and handbags to take back to their family, ahead of their flight home the following morning.
“All the lights went out before any noise or rumbling”, explained Howard.
It all happened too quickly to feel fear, so we just went with it.Howard Grace
“There are frequent power cuts there, so it didn’t seem like a big deal. I joked with the shop keeper and told him not to worry as I could still see the handbags.
“About three or four seconds later, there came the rumbling like thunder and the ground started shaking.
“I can only describe it like being in the middle of a bouncy castle, with other people jumping up and down around you in the corners. The whole thing lasted about a minute.”
Howard added: “I knew immediately that it was a big earthquake. The previous day we’d had a guided tour and our guide mentioned about Nepal’s massive earthquake back in 1934 which killed over 10,000 people. I took that in and, for some reason, it stuck with me.
“Of course, I now know that this earthquake has turned out to be as bad as the one in 1934.”
Howard and William tried to remain calm, but could hear screaming and people running for safety in the streets outside.
Howard said: “It all happened too quickly to feel fear, so we just went with it.
“I told William we should stay where we are and wait, as I knew we were probably safer inside the building than out in the street where we could have been hit by falling bricks, roof tiles and plant pots.
Howard was just able to get enough phone signal to call his friend, Mike and his son Zack, who had travelled to Kathmandu with Howard and William. They had just enough time to organise a place to meet up before signal was lost.
“When we made our way through the streets after the earthquake, it was mayhem - there were people running in all directions, traffic was going crazy as they tried to get the hell out, and telegraph poles and wires were collapsed on the street. Help was scarce.”
“We spent most of the afternoon in our hotel’s garden, and aftershocks continued every 30 to 60 minutes.
“William and I slept in our hotel room because we felt the building was stable, but our friends chose to sleep in the hotel garden in sleeping bags.”
Howard and William made their way to the nearby airport the following morning, and managed to get on their pre-booked flight, which was one of the last outward flights before the airport was closed to allow relief planes to arrive.
“There was no real control from guards or police, it was just a mob at the airport trying to get on a flight out of there”, said Howard. “I’m surprised that we managed to get out on our flight, but we felt a massive sense of relief.
“It was only afterwards that the enormity of what we escaped from became apparent. I knew there would be fatalities, but thought it would maybe be a handful of people.
“We are just pleased to be back home in Louth again.”