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KPBS Midday Edition

Cardiff Resident Tells Story Of Surviving Nepal Earthquake In New Documentary

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"Nightmare on Everest" preview

Cardiff resident Kat Heldman is featured in a documentary about the 2015 Nepal earthquake that is airing on the Smithsonian Channel Monday night.

Heldman was in Nepal on a mountain climbing trip with her husband and two friends when the magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit. The quake and resulting landslides and avalanches killed 9,000 people.

On Monday's Midday Edition, we speak to Heldman about her experience.

The documentary, "Nightmare on Everest," will air at 9 p.m. Monday.

Cardiff Resident Tells Story Of Surviving Nepal Earthquake In New Documentary
Cardiff Resident Tells Story Of Surviving Nepal Earthquake In New Documentary GUEST:Kat Heldman, Cardiff resident and survivor of 2015 Nepal earthquake

THIS IS KPBS MIDDAY EDITION I AM MAUREEN CAVANAUGH. AN EARTHQUAKE IN CALIFORNIA CAN BE VERY BAD . AND EARTHQUAKE IN A MOUNTAINOUS UNDEVELOPED AREA OF THE WORLD CAN BE AN UNIMAGINABLE TRAGEDY. THAT IS WHAT PEOPLE ON AND NEAR MOUNT EVEREST AND NEPAL EXPERIENCE ALMOST EXACTLY 2 YEARS AGO. ON APRIL 25, 2015, THE AREA WAS SHAKEN BY A 7.8 MAGNITUDE QUAKE WHICH TRIGGERED AVALANCHES AND KILLED AN ESTIMATED 9000 PEOPLE MANY WESTERNERS, CLIMBERS AND HIKERS WERE IN THE HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN. RECORDED MUCH OF THE EXPERIENCE AS IT HAPPENED VIDEOS PROVIDED THE BASIS OF THE DOCUMENT TREE THAT AIRS TONIGHT CALLED NIGHTMARE ON EVEREST . A SURVIVOR OF THE EARTHQUAKE, KAT HELDMAN IS FEATURED IN THE FILM SHE JOINS ME NOW. WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE EARTHQUAKE HIT. WE WERE IN THE VILLAGE IN NEPAL. BEING FROM CALIFORNIA, DID YOU KNOW RIGHT AWAY IT WAS AN EARTHQUAKE? I DID NOT KNOW RIGHT AWAY WHEN IT ACTUALLY OCCURRED, I WAS INSIDE OF A TEAHOUSE. THERE WAS A REALLY LOUD NOISE. OUR GUIDE, I LOOKED AT HIS FACE HIS EYES WERE VERY WIDE AND WHITE. HE YELLED EARTHQUAKE. WE ALL RAN OUTSIDE. WAS IT DIFFERENT THAN THE EARTHQUAKES YOU FELT HERE? NO COMPARISON. IT WAS SO LOUD. PART OF IT MAY BE BECAUSE THE BUILDINGS WE WERE IN -- THERE IS NO REBAR. IT IS STACKED STONES. THEY WERE FALLING ALL AROUND US. IT WAS VERY LOUD. IT SOUNDED LIKE 40 PEOPLE RUNNING WITH STEEL TOED BOOTS ON THE SECOND LEVEL VERY LOUD. IN THE FILM, NIGHTMARE ON EVEREST, WE SEE YOU RUN INSIDE A CRUMBLING BUILDING TO MAKE SURE YOUR TEAM GETS OUT. FOR A MOMENT, YOU THINK EVERYTHING IS OKAY. THEN SOMEBODY YELLS LOOK, LOOK, LOOK. THAT WAS MY HUSBAND. HE WAS FILMING THE ACTUAL EARTHQUAKE. HE WAS THE ONE WHO YELLED. WHAT HE WAS LOOKING AT WAS THE MOUNTAINS ABOVE THE VILLAGE WE WERE IN AND THEY WERE HEMORRHAGING EVERY MOUNTAIN IN THE COUNTRY HAD AVALANCHES. BECAUSE THE EARTHQUAKE WAS SO INTENSE. WHAT WAS COMING DOWN ON THE VILLAGE WE WERE IN WAS JUST A DOT -- GIANT PLUME OF ICE, ROCK, SNOW, DIRT, MUD AND AT AN INCREDIBLE SPEED AS SOON AS HE SAW THAT, HE STOPPED. I AM NOT KIDDING, WE TURNED AROUND AND WE WERE RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES. HOW DID YOU SURVIVE? LUCK. SOMEONE SAID AVALANCHE, RUN. WE STARTED RUNNING. AS SOON AS I FELT THE INITIAL BLAST, I KNEW THERE WAS NO WAY I WOULD STAY ON MY FEET I DOVE BEHIND A ROCK WALL. I CROUCHED DOWN AND THOUGHT THIS IS WHERE I DIE IT IS SURREAL. I DIE IN AN AVALANCHE. HOW WEIRD. WE KNEW WE WOULD BE BURIED PICK IT WAS LOUD AND BLACK. IT FELT DAYS YOU PUT YOUR HANDS UP. THE VELOCITY WAS INTENSE WORK THEN, --. THEN, I STOOD UP AND WE WERE NOT BURIED WE WERE LUCKY BECAUSE THE AMOUNT OF SNOW -- THE SECOND PLUME THERE WAS A RAVINE BEFORE IT CAME UP INTO OUR VILLAGE. IT SLOWED DOWN. THE VILLAGE WE HAD LEFT AT 8:30 AM -- IT WAS 11:30 AM WHEN IT OCCURRED THE VILLAGE WE HAD EATEN PANCAKES AND TEA AT. WE BOUGHT LITTLE HATS -- IT WAS COMPLETELY BURIED. THEY GOT THE BRUNT OF THE FORCE. SUSPECTED ANY RESCUE TEAMS ARRIVE? IT IS NOT LIKE WHAT YOU IMAGINE. I FEEL LIKE THAT IS OUR WESTERN MENTALITY. THAT IS NOT HOW IT WAS. WE WERE STRANDED FOR FIVE DAYS. ALL OF THE VILLAGES -- THERE IS NO ROADS. IT IS ALL TRAILS PER THE TRAIL SYSTEM WAS WIPED OUT. THERE ARE ONLY A FEW HELICOPTERS. IT TURNS OUT THERE WERE 9000 PEOPLE THAT DIED. WE WERE NOT THE ONLY ONES STRANDED. WE WERE NOT THE ONLY ONES IN NEED. WE DID NOT KNOW THAT. WE DID NOT KNOW IF IT WAS JUST US. WE DID NOT KNOW WHAT WAS HAPPENING. RIGHT AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE AND AVALANCHE, THERE WERE SEVERELY INJURED PEOPLE WHO NEEDED TO BE IN HOSPITALS THE VILLAGE BELOW US WAS BURIED. IT WAS TRAUMATIC THE FIRST FEW DAYS AFTERWARDS. WE WERE TRYING TO HELP THE INJURED. TO FIND FOOD AND WATER AND HELP. I UNDERSTAND AFTER FOUR DAYS, YOU WERE TAKEN OUT OF THE COUNTRY. YOU RETURN TO THE UNITED STATES. THAT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE ENTERING ANOTHER PLANET. COMING BACK. IT WAS ABOUT FOUR DAYS BEFORE WE MADE IT TO KATHMANDU. IT WAS WEEKS BEFORE WE GOT BACK TO THE STATES. WHEN WE RETURNED, IT WAS SURREAL. IT WAS WEIRD WE WENT TO A HOTEL IN PASADENA THE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS WAS INCREDULOUS. YOU CANNOT BELIEVE THE POVERTY AND INSTRUCTION IN NEPAL. COMING BACK TO THE U.S. WHERE BUILDINGS HAVE REBAR. WILL YOU GO BACK? YES. I PLAN TO GO BACK NEXT YEAR FOR FUNDRAISING AND CLIMBING TRACK. TO RAISE MONEY TO HELP THE PEOPLE. IS IT TOUGH TO GET ABOUT THAT? I'M GETTING MORE USED TO THE IDEA. LAST YEAR I PLANNED TO GO BACK AND WHEN THE TIME CAME, I COULD NOT DO IT. I THINK IT IS TOUGH, BUT I THINK IT WILL BE HEALING IN MANY WAYS. I HAVE BEEN SPEAKING WITH KAT HELDMAN WHO LIVES IN CARDIFF. SHE IS ONE OF THE PEOPLE FEATURED IN THE NEW DOCUMENTARY, NIGHTMARE ON EVEREST . IT AIRS TONIGHT ON THE CECCONI AND CHANNEL AT 9 PM. THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCE.