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BHAKTAPUR, Nepal — Nepalese photojournalist Amul Thapa smiled in spite of his hidden pain when he saw the scene he’ll remember always: Rescue workers pulling a 4-month-old boy from the wrecked home where he’d been trapped 20 hours after the earthquake.
Sonit Awal’s chubby cheeks were caked in chalky, concrete dust. One tiny fist curled tightly shut, the other seemingly covering his face.
His 9-year-old sister was watching him when the magnitude-7.8 temblor struck at midday Saturday, collapsing many historic buildings in the town of Bhaktapur, just east of Nepal’s capital.
The children’s parents were both away but the girl managed to escape unhurt. When Thapa, who works with KathmanduToday.com, first heard Sonit’s cries, the baby was trapped under a wooden beam.
That beam “was supporting everything,” the 26-year-old remembers. To move it would have meant to bring even more danger to the trapped child.
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Thapa’s own family in his hometown of Bhaktapur had suffered and his home had been destroyed but Thapa said when he heard the baby cry all he could think was “Please God, help him.”
Thapa was walking to the market on Saturday when he first heard of the baby trapped but he decided not to shoot that day.
“The atmosphere was not right.”
But he returned the next morning.
At 10 a.m. on Sunday, Nepalese army soldiers pulled out little Sonit.
“When I saw the baby alive all my sorrow went. Everyone was clapping. It gave me energy and made me smile in spite of lots of pain hidden inside me.”
The photographer said the baby appeared to have suffered only a small cut over his brow.
Many of the ornate buildings in Bhaktapur, a key tourist site, were reduced to rubble after the earthquake.
“Please help Nepalese people and save Nepalese people,” Thapa said, adding that urban areas would recover from the devastation relatively quickly but in the villages close to the epicenter, people lost their home and are asking for help.
— Associated Press photo editor Yirmiyan Arthur and writer Muneeza Naqvi in New Delhi contributed to this report.