Journalists caught up in
Nepal earthquake

Fairfax visual journalist Mike Scott and reporter Matt Rilkoff had spent nearly three weeks in Nepal on an Asia New Zealand Foundation media travel grant before the April 25 earthquake struck, killing nearly 9000 people and causing widespread devastation. Scott tells us about their experiences both prior to and after the earthquake and their plans for returning to the country.

Watch this video of images taken by Mike Scott and Fairfax photographer Peter Drury. Drury accompanied Scott and Rilkoff on assignment in Nepal.

In the Nepali village of Khumjung, dentist Mingma Nuru Sherpa shared a piece of Buddhist wisdom with us as we watched him work on children's rotting teeth.“A misery shared is a misery halved. A joy shared is a joy multiplied,” he said.

His words gained a greater poignancy than we could ever have imagined as Fairfax reporter Matt Rilkoff and I journeyed through the Khumbu region to Mt Everest.

We were there with three stories in mind. We followed a group of dentists in the Khumjung area, holding clinics for the Kiwi-Nepalese aid agency SmileHigh. We also examined the schools and hospital established in the area by the Himalayan Trust and sought to establish if this organisation, which had been started by Sir Edmund Hillary, would continue to have the influence and momentum it had before he died.

We also investigated the ongoing impact to the Sherpa community of the deaths of 16 porters on Mr Everest in April 2014 when a massive avalanche swept through base camp. To do this, we delved into their relationship with the mountain and the western climbers who come to conquer it, and sought their thoughts on the future of the Sherpa people. We talked with widows, sisters, monks, doctors, dentists, teachers, Sherpas, Kiwis and sirdars during eighteen days of trekking, filming, photographing and interviewing.

We made our way from Kathmandu to Lukla to Everest Base Camp and back again. It was exhausting, but we were satisfied we had what we came for.

Then, just two days before we left Kathmandu, the earthquake hit and everything changed.

It was a terrifying experience, yet we fought against our fear and began capturing the devastation happening before our eyes. Within a matter of hours we were sending stories, pictures and video back to New Zealand.

Over the next 48 hours we witnessed frantic and often futile rescue efforts, we saw bodies being dug from collapsed buildings, talked with other New Zealanders caught in the disaster and sat with communities that had shifted en masse into parks and open areas as their city was wracked by aftershocks.

Less than one day after the massive shake, we flew drones over the shattered city, which we had brought with us not expecting the use we would eventually put them to. From above the extent of the devastation was heartbreaking.

When we returned to New Zealand, we knew the best thing we could was to abide by the Buddhist proverb we had been told just days earlier and  share the misery, to halve it and halve it again as much as we could.

While we worked in Nepal as journalists, as active but inert onlookers, when we returned it was time to help in a more tangible way. We immediately began to raise funds to help the country rebuild. It was essential aid be channeled to the affected people as quickly as possible, to beat the misery the monsoon rains would bring if people were still in shelters outside.

On April 25 Nepal changed as a country. There is the Nepal before the quake and the Nepal after. Nothing can now be viewed in isolation from that event, and it is the same for our project.

Since our fundraising efforts, we have refocused our original scope to make it relevant in a postquake Nepal. We are currently conducting additional interviews and reshaping our project to have a forward focus on documenting the hopes, dreams and disappointments of those rebuilding a country.

Our initial project, like other quake survivors, will go on but in a different form. We have already started on a journey to record the recovery process and we are committed be going back in 2016. We want to finish the job we started, help the friends we made and find as much joy to share as we can.

Some of the stories compiled by Mike Scott and Matt Rilkoff and published on the Stuff website: