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Salvation Army captain called to Kathmandu to help in 2015 Nepalese quake aftermath

Salvation Army captain called to Kathmandu to help in 2015 Nepalese quake aftermath

Samoa in 2009, Chile in 2010, Japan in 2011, Christchurch 2012, Nepal 2015, Kaikōura 2016 ...

In the past 10 years, the world has been rocked by devastating earthquakes.

Perry Bray has worked in the aftermath of the two major New Zealand quakes and between them, Nepal.

A piece of the Salvation Army captain remains in that country shattered by the 7.8 magnitude earth quake of April 2015.

He was involved in relief work for 10 weeks in the capital Kathmandu.

It is an experience he will never forget.

It was five years on from the first Canterbury quake, where he and his wife Annette were based before being posted to Invercargill, when he was asked to take his disaster skills from New Zealand to Nepal.

The Englishman, originally from Lincoln in the East Midlands, who got his calling when he and Annette started attending church in Auckland more than 20 years ago, knew about quakes and the mass destruction not to mention disruption they caused.

His job was mainly distributing food and resources out the recovery centres.

The role was similar in Nepal. But nothing from his New Zealand experience, including the Kaikōura quake in 2016, could prepare him for a disaster in a poor country.

"The level of poverty made it different to Christchurch; the construction's different - just brick and stone so you got total destruction of towns and villages.

Also Christchurch is mainly on the flat in a valley; in saying that you've got the Port Hills, but in Nepal it's all mountains; it's very mountainous so half the mountain slides down into the valley taking all with it."

The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, and caused a huge avalanche in the Langtang Valley where 250 were reported missing.

This produced another main difference; because Kathmandu retained some infrastructure and became the supply centre, country people flocked to the city.

The opposite happened in Christchurch; people headed out of the city to safety elsewhere.

The other main difference was that children lost not their parents but their whole family. The quake killed about 9000 people and injured nearly 22,000.

And probably greatest and most dangerous of them all was the civil unrest the quakes caused in Nepal; wedged between China and India its borders were under threat, and essentials such as petrol became strictly rationed.

He saw the ugliness but also the beauty of people in such a crisis situation, in an experience that will always stay with them.

"There's a part of me that's been left behind. I'd really like to go back and reconnect with some of the those people I helped. You do make connections with locals and bond that could never be broken."

The other big difference was the people; Kiwis tend to be more entitled that getting help is their due.

"But Nepalese are just so grateful for any assistance that you're almost part of a family."

They were grateful just to get a bag of rice.

It also partly because of the esteem in which Kiwis are held because of Sir Edmund Hillary.

"On our welcome we were so inundated with garlands that I had to take off half of them so I could move."

He and Annette, both captains have done their share of moving around. Like any member of an army, they go where they are called. In January, the pair moved to Wellington where they have been assigned.

Annette pondered the difference between an earthquake and other disasters; quakes are unpredictable; with other events you get some warning, like hurricanes or tsunamis but with a quake the only thing that is predicable is that you were likely to get more aftershocks.

"You can clean up after a flood - yes it's messy but it's usually a single event but with an earthquake you know it's going to be ongoing."

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