S'pore woman's close shave in Nepal quake
Singaporeans caught in Nepal earthquake escape temple collapse
She was in a historic temple at the Patan Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, surrounded by its beauty.
But within a few minutes, the same monument was reduced to rubble in front of her eyes.
Singaporean Jasmine Ong said that she would have died if she had stayed in the temple for five more minutes.
Madam Ong, who is in her 50s and works in sales, was holidaying in Nepal when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake - the country's worst in 80 years - struck on Saturday.
Madam Ong, along with 73 other Singaporeans and permanent residents, were evacuated from Nepal and arrived at Paya Lebar Air Base in a C-130 plane yesterday at about 12.45am.
"I'm just so lucky to escape alive," she told The New Paper at the Paya Lebar Air Base.
The earthquake happened on the third day of Madam Ong's photography trip with a group of 20 friends. A visit to Patan Durbar Square, a Unesco World Heritage Site, was at the top of their list.
Madam Ong said: "I've always wanted to photograph the old monuments there."
She recalled seeing two Chinese women in high heels taking pictures in front of her group.
"They were still in the temple when we left," she added.
The group then headed for lunch at an adjacent restaurant and had just settled down on its fourth-storey terrace when the earthquake struck.
She said: "Once we sat down, the building started shaking. I was so afraid that it was going to collapse.
"I squatted down and just grabbed whatever I could for support."
The tremors lasted less than five minutes, Madam Ong told TNP, but from the terrace, she had a full view of the extensive damage on the square.
"Buildings that existed five minutes ago were gone. The temple I'd just left became dust.."
Her thoughts immediately went to the two Chinese women she had last seen in the temple.
"I don't know if they were still inside, but I hope they are well. It could have been me buried in the rubble."
When Madam Ong returned to her guest house later that day, she chose to spend the night in a restaurant on the first storey instead of her third-storey room, for fear of being crushed to death.
She said: "Nobody dared to sleep in their rooms. I slept next to a window in case I needed to escape quickly."
She felt at least three aftershocks that night.
"Each time I heard the tables shaking or felt the ground moving, I jumped out of the window to get to open space."
Over the next two days, Madam Ong witnessed plenty of heartbreaking scenes.
"I saw a lot of homeless people on the streets and they had no access to water.
"The sanitary levels were so bad that people were digging holes for toilets out in the open."
Having witnessed the devastation first-hand, she hoped that Singaporeans would donate generously to the relief efforts there.
"We are so fortunate to be living in Singapore where there are no earthquakes. I just hope we can help the Nepalis rebuild their lives."
S'POREANS STILL MISSING
Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifl said that out of the more than 200 Singaporeans in Nepal who had registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), five are still uncontactable.
Mr Masagos added: "We'll work as hard as we can to make sure these five are contacted and to get them out of Nepal as soon as possible."
The Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday: "While ground telecommunications pose severe challenges, MFA will keep in close touch with the Nepalese authorities and the next-of-kin of all Singaporeans in Nepal until they are accounted for."
At least 10 from Singapore are listed as missing in Nepal on the online Red Cross registry Restoring Family Links, The Straits Times reported.
Meanwhile, Singapore will contribute another $150,000 to the Singapore Red Cross to aid relief efforts, Mr Masagos told reporters at Paya Lebar Air Base yesterday morning.
This comes after an initial donation of $100,000.
'Temple fell apart right in front of me'
CLOSE SHAVE: Mr Tai Tung Voon had a close shave while trekking at Everest Base Camp. - TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WAN
It was a scene straight out of a disaster movie for Singaporean Tai Tung Voon, who was in Nepal during Saturday's earthquake.
A temple collapsed before his very eyes as surrounding buildings fell.
The air-conditioner repair man, 50, told The New Paper: "Everything around me was collapsing. I thought I was definitely going to die."
Mr Tai had arrived in Nepal last Wednesday for a trekking trip to Everest Base Camp.
It was his second time in the country and he had planned to scale Mount Everest.
Three days later, on Saturday, he experienced his first earthquake while in Kathmandu.
He said: "I was standing outside a temple when the ground started shaking violently. The temple just fell apart right in front of me.
"I couldn't even stand on my feet."
Filled with fear, Mr Tai braced himself for the worst.
"I was just waiting for death. There was nowhere for me to hide. I didn't know where to run to. Everything had collapsed."
The tremors stopped after a few minutes.
Although he emerged unscathed, the narrow escape from death left Mr Tai deeply paranoid for the rest of his stay in Nepal.
"There was no transport available so my tour guide brought me to his house.
"But I slept in his farm instead. It was freezing, but I wanted to be out in the open."
He felt like he had dodged a bullet, he said.
"I was supposed to climb Everest on Monday. If I had been there during the earthquake, I could have been hit by the avalanche.
"I'm lucky to be alive."
His wife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tai, heaved a huge sigh of relief when her husband landed safely at Paya Lebar Air Base yesterday morning.
She told TNP: "I was worried sick. I thought his chances of surviving the earthquake were slim.
"I'm very happy that he's safe."
To welcome him back, she prepared a warm, home-cooked meal for him.
"I made vegetarian rice, his favourite," she said.
'We didn't know how bad it was'
IN ONE PIECE: Mr Yang Nan is used to earthquakes, having grown up in China’s Sichuan province, but he was relieved to be back in one piece. - TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG
He had overslept by three hours on Saturday, the day he and his group of three friends were supposed to visit Nepal's historic Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
As a result, their trip was pushed back.
Those three hours of sleep may have saved the life of Mr Yang Nan, 33, a Singapore permanent resident.
The square is now a pile of rubble, after Saturday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
Mr Yang's group was descending from their accommodation in a mountainous region in Nagarkot, 32km east of Kathmandu, when the earthquake struck.
He told The New Paper: "We were at around 2,000m above ground when it happened."
Mr Yang, who grew up in Sichuan, China, immediately knew it was an earthquake.
"I'm used to earthquakes in my hometown, but that was the worst one I'd ever felt. We were all carrying heavy backpacks and there was nothing for us to grab hold of.
"We just threw our bags down and lay on the ground."
After the tremors stopped, the group, unaware of the full extent of the earthquake, even contemplated visiting the square as planned.
"We didn't know how bad it was. It was only until we could get reception that we started seeing images of the damage.
"I read that over 400 people were trapped under debris there. It was such a close shave for us."
As Mr Yang made his way to the airport the next day, chaos greeted him everywhere he turned.
"People were digging through the debris with their bare hands. Mothers were crying loudly beside collapsed buildings. It was an unforgettable sight."
He was one of the 74 Singaporeans and permanent residents who touched down in Singapore yesterday morning.
He told TNP at Paya Lebar Air Base: "I'm so glad to be back in one piece."
When asked what he would do once he got home, he said: "I'll take a long nap."