April 30, 2015 1:42 PM EDT

Freelance photographer Adam Ferguson was on assignment in New Delhi when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the central region of Nepal. “The building started to shake, and I immediately looked at the news to see how the situation was developing,” he says.

Using his connections with an Indian travel agency, Ferguson was able to secure a seat on one of the last flights to Kathmandu, where he began to photograph the aftermath for TIME. “I flew in on Sunday morning,” he says. “I went straight down to the historic center, which had been devastated. It was a pile of rubble.”

While most of the city only suffered structural damages – “the majority of Kathmandu is still standing, with only the buildings that weren’t constructed properly having fallen over,” he says – the UNESCO sites and historical structures were the hardest hit.

“I spent the first moving around the city, photographing for TIME the destruction and looking for rescue teams,” says Ferguson. By nightfall, as aftershocks continued to hit the region, he spent part of the night sleeping in an office inside a two-story building. With each aftershock, he’d rush outside in the rain. “A lot of people have been staying in parks and open spaces,” he says. And this is not expected to change any time soon: “An extraordinary number of buildings that haven’t fallen over have suffered constructional damage, so a huge amount of people won’t be able to move back in for weeks.”

Adam Ferguson is an Australian freelance photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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