Emergency rescue workers carry a victim on a stretcher after Dharara tower collapsed in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015
Emergency rescue workers carry a victim on a stretcher after Dharara tower collapsed in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015Omar Havana—Getty Images
Emergency rescue workers carry a victim on a stretcher after Dharara tower collapsed in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015
Emergency workers and bystanders clear debris while searching for survivors under a collapsed temple in Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Emergency rescue workers clear debris in Basantapur Durbar Square while searching for survivors in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Emergency rescue workers search for survivors in the debris of Dharara tower after it collapsed in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 2015.
A victim of Nepal's earthquake lies in the debris of the Dharara tower after it collapsed in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Emergency workers and bystanders clear debris while searching for survivors under a collapsed temple in Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Residents run to shelters after an aftershock hit Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Resident passes in front of a collapsed temple at Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Residents sit in open spaces as aftershocks hit the city following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Flowers are left by survivors on top of debris from a collapsed building at Basantapur Durbar Square following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015.
Emergency rescue workers carry a victim on a stretcher after Dharara tower collapsed in Kathmandu, Nepal on April 25, 20
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Omar Havana—Getty Images
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The Story Behind the Photos of Nepal's Devastating Earthquake

Apr 25, 2015

Freelance photographer Omar Havana was at home in Kathmandu when an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale hit central Nepal.

“Everything started moving and my wife and I could [barely] stand,” Havana tells TIME. “I live in a six-floor house, so we ran downstairs as the building started to crack. It was very scary—people were running, shouting and crying. It was awful.”

With a death toll rising by the hour—this earthquake is Nepal’s worst in 81 years—Havana witnessed scenes of panic as people looked for safety in open spaces. “There were more replicas, which scared everyone even more,” he said. “It has been one of the worst scenes I’ve witnessed in my life.”

The Spanish photographer, who moved to Kathmandu seven months ago and is represented by Getty Images, also saw acts of humanity. “People are doing amazing work,” he said. “They’re doing everything they [can] to help each other.”

Havana has been documenting these scenes, filing images that show the extraordinary extent of the destruction and the astonishing solidarity in its wake. “I try to be as human as I can be but it’s hard not to be overwhelmed [by] what’s in front of my eyes: a hand appearing from the debris, a mother hold[ing] her baby. I’m just trying to tell the story of the people and the damage caused to the city.”

While shooting, Havana is also on the lookout for survivors, helping clear rubble. “I keep my eyes open, hoping I will see a person alive under the debris.”

With communications networks severely impacted, Havana has been working with colleagues from other media organizations to get his images out. “Once again, I owe the people of Nepal a lot,” he said. “They are opening us their doors to let us charge our laptops and use Internet from their houses.”

“Today has been one of the saddest of my life,” he added. “I am new in Nepal but the people [have made] me love this country as my home. I am devastated to see this situation.”

Omar Havana is a freelance photographer based in Kathmandu, Nepal. He is represented by Getty Images.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

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