THE Beaminster couple doing VSO in Nepal survived the earthquake and are staying on to help.

Judith and Simon Hill have been asked to assess the damage in isolated rural villages and have been to five already.

Judith and Simon were 50 miles apart when the quake hit but assured friends and family of their welfare as soon as they could after the disaster.

Simon said: “The aftershocks which set our 'quake alarm' off continue to plague our days, but their only real effect is to send us out into the streets clutching our few precious belongings. Happily these heart racing occurrences are becoming fewer.

“Life compared with Kathmandu and other badly affected areas is bearable and we count our lucky stars that our situation is not worse.

Judith added: “Simon and I are fine, as are our immediate team of volunteers and Nepali nationals. We know of many whose family homes or relations have not been so fortunate, so it is very close to home. Although Lamjung is one of the districts that has been in the news as closest to the epicentre of Saturday's earthquake we have escaped the worst of the damage.

“As you can imagine it was a very frightening experience and some VSO volunteers are being re-repatriated. We feel safe and hope to be able to do something constructive to help.

“VSO, which is a regeneration and knowledge sharing INGO, is not involved in relief aid generally but will hopefully be here for another 50 years of service.

“We have been given the go ahead to offer our assistance where we can.

“Our personal message is perhaps ‘shaken but not stirred’! Please do not worry about us.”

They have now been able to post on their blog with their personal experiences on the day of the quake and its aftermath.

Simon was in Baglung Hotel and says trying to escape the building was like ‘running down an upcoming escalator’.

He said: “I wandered back to the tea room as the building began to shake. The first reaction when that happens is not to escape, it is to take a split second as your senses realise what is happening, and then your brain kicks in with the likely consequences of being stuck on the top floor of a building whose construction had never been subject to the rigors of a western style building inspector, or construction standards. Then you escape.

“We started to run down, that’s when the escalator experience kicked in, since although it can have only taken a few seconds to make that descent, six floors can feel like 26 when your life depends upon it.

“The flights of stairs seem endless and seem to rise up at you preventing that much desired arrival at the bottom.

“As we ran, the building rattled like someone was taking swipes at it with a wrecking ball and the windows popped open as their frames changed shape. A feeling of impending doom filled our minds and images of collapsing packs of concrete cards pushed us on.

“Through the open door which now lay ahead the sounds of shouts and screams were coming back at us in a growing crescendo as we finally burst out into a narrow street. The noise of falling masonry to our right greeted us as we joined the fleeing masses whilst surrounding tall buildings continued to rattle and sway.

“Baglung was largely still standing, but we had all been given a lesson in the strength of natural forces, whilst at the same time experiencing a lucky escape.

“After making contact with the VSO emergency line the next call was to Jude who to my joy had also escaped injury.”

Judith was in Besisahar and was walking to her sink when there was a very sudden shudder.

She said: “We have had a few very minor tremors so I just thought it was another. So much went through my mind in the split seconds that followed. I rushed to the doorway, I must have read about door frames and corners in our emergency briefing.

“I could hear panicky voices and running so I quickly joined the rush down the stairs and outside. No-one knew where to go or what to do. We gathered, neighbours from the surrounding houses. The tremendous shaking was making noise and what I noticed most was three meters of reinforcement bars on the next door building which were clattering and swaying.

“It could have only lasted for a few minutes, probably only three but I am unsure. It seemed like a lot longer. It was about midday. Although I was among a small crowd I felt very alone.

“Here is Besishahar it is hard to believe that the epicentre to this horrible earthquake was so near. We have seen little damage. However most people that we have talked to either know of family or friends that are missing, have lost family houses in the villages, in one case a whole village, or have yet to find out about damage.”