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Nepal earthquake: ‘Like nothing I’ve ever witnessed’—volunteer medic Kevin

PUBLISHED: 15:54 29 May 2015 | UPDATED: 07:51 03 June 2015

Kevin helps injured after earthquake

Kevin helps injured after earthquake

Kevin Coringan

Ambulance paramedic Kevin Corrigan is back in east London after witnessing a catastrophe of “Biblical proportions” in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Nepal.

A home destroyed and a family made homless by Nepal's earthquake disaster[photo: Russell Watkins]A home destroyed and a family made homless by Nepal's earthquake disaster[photo: Russell Watkins]

The volunteer from Shoreditch ambulance station went out to Nepal as part of the UK relief operation.

He was in Kathmandu when the second ’quake struck and witnessed the destruction, his encounter in Nepal like nothing the 54-year-old had ever seen before.

Hundreds injured—desperately needing medical help. A nation burying its dead. Whole buildings wobbling and the concrete moving under his feet. Lamp-posts moving and collapsing in the streets like felled trees.

And the silence—the eerie quiet that follows the aftershocks.

Devastation... Nepal Earthquake disaster appeal: www.dec.org.uk [photos: Islamic Relief]Devastation... Nepal Earthquake disaster appeal: www.dec.org.uk [photos: Islamic Relief]

“It was like a Biblical catastrophe,” the widowed father-of-three recalled.

“I was there when the second earthquake hit on May 12, helping on the roof of the Ministry of Health in Kathmandu.

“Suddenly the building shook, the concrete under my feet felt like a ‘bouncy’ castle. It was surreal.

“Traffic in the street stopped. Everything went quiet, then the crying. There was panic.

Kevin Corrigan in NepalKevin Corrigan in Nepal

“Crowds rushed onto the streets and within hours all the tent ‘villages’ sprung up again in the parks.

“I was in danger myself from aftershock. I saw the three-storey buildings to our left start wobbling and lamp-posts moving. Everyone rushed to the other side of street. It was very scary.”

Kevin and his team of 30 volunteer medics and surgeons were in Kathmandu another six days, treating hundreds of spinal injuries from the first earthquake.

He found the Nepalese a resilient people who had gone through disaster and come out of it stronger.

“They greeted us so warmly,” he added. “I fell in love with the country and its people.

“But they need more help, especially with the Monsoon coming.

“There’s a risk of further landslides caused by the rains. The roads were already cut off by the earthquakes.”

Kevin is usually on call at the London Ambulance Service base in Kingsland Road, covering Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Islington and the City.

This was his first volunteering mission abroad, in a humanitarian operation by the Department for International Development as part of the government’s response to the first earthquake on April 25.

He had put himself on the UK volunteers’ list two years ago, ready for such disasters, and got the call a day after the first earthquake—and was eager to fly out.

The ex-postman once working at the Old Street sorting office is now a trained paramedic, fully qualified in life-saving, heart resuscitation and even delivering babies, having joined the London Ambulance Service in 2007.

His job is responding to 999 calls over a wide area from Canary Wharf, the Isle of Dogs and The City in the south, to Hackney, Stoke Newington, Highbury and Islington in the north.

But his rapid response car routine was a world away from the foothills of the Himalayas of Nepal, where rescuers battled to reach outlying villages cut off by landslides blocking mountain roads.

The only way into the disaster zone 60 miles from Kathmandu was by helicopter.

“This was like nothing I’ve experienced,” he said. “The damage zone was 150 miles across. The scale simply swamped Nepal’s medical infrastructure, with sanitation destroyed and the real threat of cholera.

“People were living under plastic sheets out in the open, too afraid to stay in their homes for fear the buildings would collapse.”

Britain has given £33m to the Nepal disaster relief operation as well as sending out volunteers like Kevin.

There is so much to rebuild—hospitals, schools, roads, whole villages, whole towns.

There are also the lives to rebuild, for when the Himalaya mountains shudder, it is the people of Nepal who pay with blood—8,000 dead, 17,000 bandly injured. They are a nation mauled by nature, but not beaten by it.

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