The 25 April 2015 promised to be a good day for Samjana, because she had a day’s work lined up on a local farm. Although low paid, farming work was always welcome – if not always available. A day’s work might only bring in 300 rupees (about £2) but it was essential to help feed and clothe her three young children.
It was nearly noon and she had already spent many hours in the field, along with her two older children, Rita (6) and Sarita (4). Samjana lives in Bhorle, a village situated 2,000m up the side of the huge Langtang Lirung mountain in northern Nepal.
Samjana’s husband Kiran, like so many Nepali men, was working abroad as a labourer. He was in the middle of a two-year stint 3,000km away in Qatar, spending his days shifting sand and stone in the scorching heat – cheap labour for that nation’s huge construction work.
At around 11.56 am, the most devastating earthquake for more than 80 years hit Nepal.
It lasted 40 seconds. Many thousands of buildings collapsed and whole villages disappeared. It triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest, and the tremors were felt as far afield as Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
As the earth shook beneath her, Samjana had only one thought: to reach Iniya, her 16-month-old daughter who was back home. So she set off, still dizzy and terrified. With aftershocks hitting every few minutes, she and her daughters made slow progress. As her home came in sight, Samjana’s worst fears were realised. It was completely destroyed with baby Iniya inside. There was also no sign of Kiran’s mother who had stayed home with Iniya so Samjana could work that day.
Many lives were spared across Nepal because the earthquake struck at lunch time when people were out and about. But for Samjana, it meant that no one was there to help search through the rubble – villagers were mostly out in the fields, and no one was equipped or trained in search and rescue. So she had to recover the body of her baby and mother-in-law on her own.