A HARTLEPOOL man caught up in the deadly Nepal earthquake which has claimed the lives of thousands of people has described the terrifying moment the disaster struck.
Francis Cox, from Naisberry Park, Hartlepool, was in a hotel in Kathmandu, where he had been staying on a photography trip when the ground started to violently shake at 11.58am on Saturday as he waited for an airport pick-up to go home.
The 47-year-old electrical engineer, who also has an apartment in Dubai, where he works, says he and his pals dived to the ground to seek shelter under tables as crockery and furnishings came crashing down around them.
Then, when the violent 7.8 magnitude earthquake momentarily stopped, Francis and the rest of the group made a run for open ground, but the scenes outside made him believe his days were up.
The former Dyke House school pupil, who grew up in Wharton Terrace, Hartlepool, said: “I was sat in the hotel reception when the main earthquake struck. It is hard to describe because it was horrific, absolutely horrific.
“The ground started moving to the extent that we all just stopped and dived onto the floor. We were unsure whether the building was going to hold up.
I thought my days were up. I didn’t think I would be here now.Hartlepool man Francis Cox, caught up in the Nepal earthquake
“The solid floor felt almost fluid, like I was holding onto a lilo on a swimming pool. That’s the only way I can describe it.
“It was just moving like water underneath us. We were so frightened.
“When the tremors stopped we all made a run for open land because we didn’t know how long the hotel was going to last.
“When we got outside it was just chaos. Cars were crashing, people were screaming and crying and running everywhere. I thought my days were up. I didn’t think I would be here now.
“Stood in the open it was a feeling of terror, people gathered and looked at each other not knowing what to say, then the aftershock came.
“People dropped to the ground, the earth moved again, more screams, more cries, power lines swayed, buildings shook.
“The tremors continued, with decreasing magnitude, but with the same terrifying effect. All people tried desperately to contact family and friends to assure their safety.”
Francis, who was due back in Hartlepool today to celebrate the 80th birthday of his dad Frank Cox, with his mum Shirley, 79, and other family members, said the next worry was how they were going to get out of Nepal.
Fortunately for him and his group, two guides who had been with them on the trip dedicated their time to looking after them, despite news filtering through that the airport was not operating, and communication was limited.
By late Sunday night the whole group had seats on flights out of Kathmandu, with Francis eventually making it home on Monday.
Francis, who is married to Sharon, 48, said: “There is nothing we could ever do to repay the guides for keeping us safe and getting us through this situation back to our loved ones.”
Officials say the death toll from the 7.8-magnitude quake has now passed 5,000, but could reach 10,000, with eight million people affected - more than a quarter of the population.
l To try to raise funds for the people of Nepal, Francis and the photography group are going to arrange exhibitions to sell prints from their trip, with all funds heading back to the people of Nepal.
For prints contact Francis on firstname.lastname@example.org.