nepal quake
Credit: Image by Nick Garnett.

As a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, BBC Radio 5 Live reporter Nick Garnett had just returned to the UK from Malta, where he reported on the tragic death of refugees crossing the Mediterranean.

Some 12 hours after news of the quake broke, Garnett was already on his way to Nepal to cover the devastation caused by the natural disaster, producing around 50 live reports as a one-man band working primarily with his iPhone.

"We knew it was going to be a complicated event," Garnett told "When I took off it wasn't even clear what was left in Kathmandu, we didn't know what it was going to be like."

He packed his iPhone and iPad, both with audio broadcasting app Luci Live installed, a satellite terminal for areas with no cellular reception, a codec for audio broadcasting as well as safety equipment and a medical kit.

This "quick turnaround" was important, as journalists showing up three or four days after an event find it hard to get involved, he said, and the speed at which he set off was only possible because he was going alone.

Reporting from the aftermath of a quake meant sleeping outside, wearing face masks and witnessing terrible scenes common to any humanitarian disaster that did not make it into BBC reports.

But there were also times when Garnett was able to give a live eyewitness account of rescue operations, like this report on the moment a 15 year-old boy was pulled from the rubble in Kathmandu.

As he couldn't get a satellite signal from the scene, and he could not just record it for a later broadcast, he phoned in to the studio and started commentating on what he could see happening in front of him.

"That's the one that people think was very exciting because they felt that they were there and they were seeing what I was seeing."

"That was a case of I got all these tools, I got all this kit, I've done all this stuff on mobile journalism, but at the end of the day the most important thing is the event."

Working alone can mean compromise, and at times Garnett had to take on different roles to focus on the production side or the technology involved rather than the journalism itself.

And it wasn't long until things started to go wrong – cables started breaking, batteries died, and some equipment had to be fixed with blue tack to get it working again.

"[But] you can't be in a position where your kit is determining whether or not you can get on the air."

So he tries to use equipment you can buy on the high-street, that can be replaced if necessary.

"If brick dust gets inside an iPhone and it falls apart, you have to be able to go and get another phone from somewhere," he said.

He picked up large capacity iPhone batteries from the airport on his way out for example. "I'm really keen on the idea of using consumer electronics in a professional way."

Garnett also made use of livestreaming app Periscope to broadcast the moment he walked into a Nepalese village the army hadn't reached yet.

The stream showed the complete devastation of the village's food market, and was only possible as the area had an inexplicably good 3G network.

But he said his reports, while mobile phone based, would not have been possible if he hadn't brought a satellite.

"You just have to be pragmatic, you just have to say what piece of equipment will work in these circumstances and go for that. You have to choose the right tool for the job."

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).