After a while, it hurts too much to take any more photos of the destruction. The gravity of what I was looking at suddenly dawns on me. The rubble in front of me are peoples entire worlds; their homes, their livelihoods. It was supposed to be their safe place. I realise that I am documenting the worst moment in their lives and abruptly, it all becomes too much. The footage and images I capture show where only some of the buried had been rescued, but so many lost their lives. Lifeless bodies had been pulled from the wreckages not a day beforehand and here I am simply walking over the rubble, the flattened houses, as if it had been there for a 100 years.
After hours of walking around Bhaktapur, my heart ached, my body hurt and I quite simply wished to find a corner, curl up in the foetal position and rock myself to sleep.
There was nothing I could do except watch. I was helpless and so very powerless.
I watched as the rescue crew and dogs (one dog searched for the dead and the other for the living) searched the wreckages. With each passing minute, feeling more and more useless. I looked on as people would investigate their crumbled home for any possessions that might have survived. And I could only stare at a man who had lost his wife, children and house and wonder how he was still functioning.
I listened to stories from survivors: some trapped in their own homes; having to dig through walls to try and find the sun. Others watched as their childhood friends were being pulled from the rubble. And the whole community cried as they watched person after person being dug up from one home. Their bodies had been so severely mangled, contorted and destroyed that their eyes had popped out of their head and limbs severed off. Twenty individuals were pulled from that home. An entire household; multiple generations – gone in an instant, distorted beyond recognition.
I could offer no comfort or encouragement. I couldn’t even find my voice. I simply watched these incredible people try and start the long, long process of rebuilding their lives
If you would like to donate to Tahlia’s project please click here: Tahlias Nepal Project
Tahilia Van De Beld is currently working in Nepal with Metamorphic.