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Cambodian Survivor of Nepal Quake Flies Home

Khuon Sopheak (far left) of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) who was doing an internship in Nepal, survived the earthquake to tell his tale of escape from collapsing buildings. (Courtesy of Khoun Sopheak)

A Cambodian survivor has managed to escape an apartment building in Kathmandu, Nepal, where a major earthquake struck this week.

“I did think I would die at the time, because the building was so strongly shaking I couldn’t even stand,” Khoun Sopheak told VOA Khmer via Facebook.

A staffer at the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, Khoun Sopheak had been in Nepal since August 2014, studying media and human rights issues there. He returned to Cambodia on Thursday. (Listen to full interview in Khmer here.)

“First I hear the sound,” he recounted before his departure, referring to the April 24 quake. “After that, I saw the apartment I was living in start strongly shaking. I immediately knew it was an earthquake, and I ran to hide under my desk. A few seconds later, I knew that I could not stay in the building at all. With it shaking like this, the building would collapse, and if it did, I would die. Then I stood up and ran downstairs, after locking the door, and ran again for 100 meters away from the building.”

Once he cleared the building, he said, he felt safe. He stayed in a camp, before making arrangements to return to Cambodia. There were aftershocks, he said, which felt like the shaking you feel when riding a bus. “But that did not concern us.”

Khoun Sopheak said he is unsure whether he will return to Nepal, which is still dealing with the aftermath of the 7.8-magnitude quake. More than 5,500 people have been declared dead, and aid and emergency workers continue to search for survivors and try to provide relief for them.