He carried his 70-year-old mother on his back for five hours.
Then he traveled with her by bus for 12 more.
She suffered a severe head injury when the earthquake rumbled through her village of Thumi. He was trying to get her to a hospital in the Gorkha district in northern-central Nepal.
Like many residents of Nepal’s remote villages, Amar Baramu could be forgiven for thinking that cries for help have gone unheard. As the relief operation enters its sixth day, aid workers are just beginning to get to the far-off northern reaches of Gorkha, about a five-hour drive from Kathmandu. Difficult terrain, blocked roads and government confusion have slowed the effort.
I met Baramu, who’s 52, as he sat on a bench in the Gorkha District Hospital, which has been turned into a triage ward for earthquake victims and a staging ground for international relief organizations. A physician from Doctors Without Borders hovered over his mother, Aitimaya, checking her injury.
Amar’s forehead was creased with worry.
“There was violent shaking it seemed for 15 minutes,” he said. “The older people like my mother couldn’t rush out of their houses and they were badly hurt. Five days later no relief has reached us. We made shelters from leaves, straw and our clothing.
“All I have left are the clothes I’m wearing. I don’t know what to do,” he said, eyes welling with tears. “I came here to ask for help.”
Villagers like Aitimaya and her son are connected to the outside world by a single dirt road. In normal circumstances these byways are gullied and death-defying. Reported landslides have made them impassable.
The only way to reach the decimated villages is by helicopter, a commodity in short supply in impoverished Nepal. Pilot Subek Shrestha says that weather permitting — and often this week it has not been — he’s been ferrying supplies across the Gorkha district, including villages that sat on the catastrophic epicenter.
“Roads are blocked, no communication, and the area is still shaking, still shaking,” Shrestha says. He shows a photo of the village Laprak, one of the most devastated in the area. It looks like a war zone. The houses are shattered and lying in heaps. Nothing looks like it’s standing.
“Each and every village nearby this village — same as this, no houses standing,” he says.
In the small chopper requisitioned by the government Shrestha has transported between 300 and 400 people in critical condition to nearby hospitals. Those who remain are seeking shelter in their ruined villages.
I ask him how many people in the area need a tent. “All of them, all of them,” he says.
Yet there is hope, even in the middle of a disaster. A medical team from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has arrived to focus on the needs of mothers and children. “Even just a few minutes ago, a lady delivered,” says the team’s chief, Dr. Olivier Hagon. “That is important: not all the time casualties or surgical cases. Life is going on.”