Irenaeus Chia gives us a first-hand account of her experience during the Nepal earthquake.
The last thing Irenaeus Chia remembered before she blacked out was turning to her right and seeing large rocks hurling towards her on the bus. The next thing she knew, her friends were trying to haul her out of her seat while checking where she was bleeding.
Despite all the panic around her, Irenaeus still made a conscious decision to keep calm. She spoke to Youth.SG after a check-up at Singapore General Hospital today. She said: “At that point in time, I didn’t know what was happening. I was trying to speak but no words were coming out. I wanted to know why I was bleeding, why I was the only one being led out but I told myself to snap out of it and to just deal with it.”
Irenaeus was on her way to Kathmandu from Pokhara after a 14-day trekking trip with a group of friends. She was supposed to return to Singapore the next day, but her plans were inadvertently changed by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Irenaeus suffered a blow to her head from one of the stray rocks and fractured her skull.
She was bleeding profusely. She said: “I was yanked off the bus. Fortunately, there was a doctor on the bus since it’s a public bus and he tried to figure out what was wrong.”
Unfortunately, since the cut was at the back of her ear, he could not see her wound and tell her what was wrong. Upon seeing the massive amount of blood, her team tried to get the insurance company to send a helicopter to get her to the hospital.
After realising that it was an earthquake, Irenaeus and her group of friends boarded the bus and headed towards a hotel in the city. She managed to contact her parents through WhatsApp after the impact to let them know that she was safe.
She and her group of friends had to walk through the rubble for about 30 minutes before they reached the hotel. The bus driver could not drive them all the way to the hotel due to the road damage. She said: “The city was never so quiet. We could see some of the buildings and walls just collapsing.”
After they reached the hotel, her trekking group leader managed to find a clinic for her to get stitches for her wound. Since the power was out, they could not do a scan for her at the clinic and she had to go to another hospital. It was well into the night when she finally got to a hospital, only to learn that her skull was fractured.
Due to the fracture, she was not cleared for her scheduled flight the next day. She did not mind the fact her team members were intending to fly out without her, though. She said: “It was rather chaotic at that time so if you could get a flight out I would ask you to just go.”
Since all flights were cancelled, her friends returned to the hotel. Her friends described the scene of the airport as chaotic, with people desperate to just get out of Nepal.
When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) informed them that they would be sending planes to get them, they were overjoyed. However, they only managed to board the plane on Tuesday, because the C-130 planes could not land at the small airport on Monday.
She was amongst the first batch of 74 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) to be evacuated from Nepal, and arrived at Singapore at around 1 am on Wednesday.
She said: “When I saw the Singapore flag, I was so happy I could cry. But I didn’t, because I was just happy to be back.”
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