By Bhuvan BAGGA
Kathmandu (AFP) April 27, 2015
As he watched Nepalese police rescuers finally pull the lifeless body of his 14-year-old daughter from the rubble of their home, Dayaram Mohat collapsed on the floor in grief.
"She was my everything, she didn't do anything wrong," sobbed Mohat after witnessing the end of an agonising rescue bid involving everything from a mechanical digger to bare hands.
The Mohat family, who live in Kathmandu's densely-populated Balaju neighbourhood, were at home on Saturday lunchtime when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake ripped through the capital and surrounding towns and villages.
Mohat himself was away from the house for work but most of the rest of the household managed to flee quickly from the falling masonry.
Minutes later though they realised Prasamsah was missing along with her aunt Chandrawati Mohat, who had been with her niece in the main living room.
"It all happened so fast...the house crashed at an angle," said the father.
"The entire load came on the ground floor. We kept screaming, calling their names from the outside for the first two days but there was no opening to enter or look into the rubble."
Mohat pleaded with the hard-pressed rescue teams to try and find Prasamsah, refusing to give up hope that she had survived.
Initially, his pleas were rebuffed as the rescuers feared that the continuing aftershocks would make any such bid too risky.
Finally on Monday morning, the rescuers moved into the neighbourhood to begin a task which required a combination of brute force and extreme delicacy.
Reaching the house down a narrow alleyway was a challenge in itself, and required the use of a digger to claw away at the mounds of rubble.
A police official who took charge of the operation barked out warnings not to stand anywhere near buildings that were still standing.
- Collapse warnings -
"Some of them have cracks and may collapse on you," the officer told a AFP correspondent, refusing to give his name.
On reaching the home, the rescuers used the digger to prop up a section of the building that was teetering and in danger of falling onto the rescue team.
By smashing some bits of masonry with hammers and then carefully hauling them away with their hands, the rescuers soon opened up a tunnel into what was once the ground floor.
A steady crowd soon built up around the rescue site, although some neighbours looked on more in hope than expectation.
"We haven't heard anything from inside since the house collapsed," Sangeeta Mahat, another of Prasamsah's aunts, told AFP, as one of her relatives tried to reassure her that all would end well.
"I don't know if she's alive -- maybe she is -- but I don't understand why she hasn't responded to our calls if she is alive."
As one of the rescuers started to snake his way into the narrow opening, a deep hush fell over the bystanders.
He first started handing back some files, followed by family photo albums and photo frames.
"Look at this. Here is my daughter," Mohat said, clearing the dust from the intact glass of one framed portrait.
"Look at her face. Why was I not here to take her out?" he said.
As he started talking about his daughter's academic ambitions, one of the rescue team approached him and whispered in his ear.
"They have found her. She's dead. Dead. What will I do now?" he said.
Other family members soon formed a huddle around Mohat.
Barely two hours after the rescue effort had begun, it was all over, with Prasamsah's body brought into the open.
And as talk among his male relatives switched rapidly to the cremation plans, her father tried to absorb what he had already feared.
"She's gone," he wept, tearing flowing down his cheeks.
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