Saturday 22 October 2016

Irish tourists caught up in Nepal quake

Frantic efforts to get group of Co Wexford hillwalkers to safety


Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

Nepal earthquake
Nepal earthquake
Nepal earthquake

A GROUP of Irish people caught up in the devastating Nepal earthquake slept in a garden last night, as frantic efforts were being made to bring them home.

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Almost 1,400 people are known to have died in the earthquake, with many more feared trapped under rubble, according to officials in the city of Kathmandu.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are unable to confirm if there have been any Irish deaths or injuries.

A group of eight experienced hill-walkers from Co Wexford had just arrived in Kathmandu shortly before the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck yesterday morning at 11:41am local time (5:56am Irish time).

The group includes well-known local businesswoman Catherine Jordan and Riverchapel parish priest Fr Tom Dalton (45). Last night, Ms Jordan's son Keith (41), told the Sunday Independent that the group were all together and were advised to sleep in a garden beside their hotel.

"They are sleeping in an open space close to their hotel - that's the safety advice they were given," he said.

A guide will meet the group - all aged in their 50s and 60s - this morning to help organise their return to Ireland.

"Aftershocks are still happening and it's fairly rough for them, it will be a nerve- wrecking time until they get home," said Keith.

Keith Jordan added: "There's a group of eight out there. They are expecting another shock in the next two hours. She called me at 8am this morning and she just said 'Get us out of here as quickly as you can'. As I understand it the airport is not functioning. CNN have said it's been hit by the quake.

"They have asked me to organise flights as I'd booked the original flights. The best route I can find right now is that if they travel to Bangladesh, which is an 18-hour drive away. They are all in the Hyatt Hotel now, which seems to be one of the few buildings that was left standing after the quake. It's the safest place right now, but they are also being told they need to move away from buildings and large walls and get out in the outdoors before the next shock hits. I just need to get them out of there now."

Another of the group, 45-year-old Fr Tom Dalton from Riverchapel near Courtown, sent a text message from Kathmandu shortly after the tremor to report that he and other members of the group were all unharmed, but they had seen serious damage.

He told Fr Jim Butler, who is carrying out his duties in the Wexford parish while Fr Dalton is on the two-week walking and trekking holiday in the foothills of the Himalayas: "All is well."

1,400 FEARED dead page 21

Fr Dalton told his sister Joan at home in Wexford that the group were "very lucky" to escape injury. "He said they were now trying to get a flight home, but all the airports have been closed."

It's believed the group had just landed and were close to the airport in Kathmandu when the quake struck.

Mary McKeown, CEO of Foundation Nepal, an Irish- based development organisation, is "very concerned" about some of her staff based near the Himalayas.

"We haven't been able to get in touch with 13 workers based in a remote area about 6000m above sea level. We haven't been able to get in touch with any of them and we are very concerned about our staff," she said adding "It's likely to rain and it's going to be very uncomfortable for them up there."

Another Irishman, Fachtna 'Doc' Clandillon who runs the Nagarhope charity in Kathmandu which is involved in helping orphaned children, was in a supermarket when the earthquake struck.

"All the stock and produce tumbled from the shelves," he told his mother Niamh in a phone call. "He and his wife and children are safe and unharmed," Niamh told the Sunday Independent.

The quake struck between Kathmandu and Pokhara. Tremors were felt across the region, with further loss of life in India, Bangladesh, Tibet and on Mount Everest.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has put in place an emergency response team in Dublin to handle calls from concerned relatives.

It said in a statement: "The Embassy in New Delhi which is accredited to Nepal is liaising with actors on the ground, including EU member states and other international partners in Nepal. Anyone concerned about friends or family in the region can contact the Department on (01) 4780822."

Sunday Independent

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