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Update from the Epicenter

Day 1

outside house.jpg

Yesterday afternoon, as the second round of earthquake tremors rippled through Kigali, we got a call from the Associated Press. They needed footage of the earthquake's aftermath. We loaded up our camera gear, called our wonderful driver Papa Fred and began the long five hour journey to Cyangugu, the southwestern most area of Rwanda.

Here are some pictures from our drive from Kigali to Cyangugu:


distant mountains.jpg

It was dark by the time we passed through the Nyungwe Forest so we didn't get to see the monkeys and chimpanzees in their home. Instead we bumped along the rocky road looking up at the cliffs above us, then down on the road before us to see the rocks and earth that had crumbled off.

We arrived in Cyangugu late and went straight to the Gihundwe Hospital. It's a typical 3rd world clinic -- dimly lit with overworked doctors and crowded rooms filled with metal beds and patients. The director of the hospital said that earlier in the day there were long lines of injured people along the concrete path outside the hospital. In the afternoon ten doctors had arrived from Kigali to help out so by the time we arrived they seemed to have moved the people with minor injuries through. We toured the hospital rooms. Injured people from neighboring villages lay on beds with broken arms, head gashes and broken legs. We were told 34 people had died in Rwanda due to the quake.

Photos at Gihundwe Hospital:


injured girl .jpg

injured boy.jpg

We got to our accommodations, a Catholic retreat center up the hill from the beautiful Lake Kivu. For the duration of our drive we'd been receiving messages from our friends in Kigali that officials were warning to stay out of buildings between 8 pm and midnight. Apparently the were some warning issued based on a prediction of another earthquake. However, it was well after midnight when we arrived and finally sat down to edit the video footage. A minor tremor around 2 AM made me realize how uneasy I was about being so close to the epicenter. We jumped from the computer and lunged for the door frame, then laughed when the shaking didn't amount to much.

Day 2

the view from our hotel in Cyangugu

We woke up at 6 AM and drove to some of the villages and churches that we had heard were especially devastated. A reporter for Catholic Radio told us that across the lake in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo-- a much more densely populated area -- there were over 200 casualties.

Photos at some of the damaged churches we visited:



Photos of villagers affected by the earthquake:



As we drove down a rough dirt road back to Cyangugu, we passed a procession of mourners. They were returning to their village carrying a large woven basket that was serving as a casket for a victim's remains. Leading the group was a young man carrying a cross he had fashioned out of two twigs.

We're not going to cross the border into DRC to visit Bukavu, but I'm sure there are similar processions underway there as well.

We're now in an internet cafe battling the spotty internet service in an effort to upload the footage to the wire. After we're done we'll head to Butare to spend the next few nights filming journalism students.


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