A couple from Peterborough are “probably the luckiest people in Nepal” after narrowly avoiding the worst of the devastating earthquake in the country.
Uninjured George Vessey and Emily Laughton (26) flew out of Kathmandu just hours before the 7.8-magntitute quake struck on Saturday which has so far claimed at least 3,326 lives.
The couple, who had visited the Dharahara tower just 24 hours before it was destroyed, had made their flight to Lukla and were on their way to the Mount Everest base camp which also suffered an avalanche from the earthquake.
George and Emily are currently stuck in a tent by the airport in Lukla, but George’s dad Duncan Vessey says he and wife Gill (both 57) were relieved to discover the pair were safe having heard the earthquake had struck.
Duncan said: “It was a nightmare when I woke up on Saturday, turned on the news and saw there had been an earthquake and two casualties.
“My wife and I were very distressed and I rang Emily’s parents to let them know what had happened. The wait then began and we had no idea if they had managed to fly out of Kathmandu to start their trek.”
It was a nightmare when I woke up on SaturdayDuncan Vessey
“Luckily about five hours later they were able to get a message to Emily’s parents that they were safe and they then rang us. We were all very distressed on the phone and very relieved at the same time.
“Since then the only way we have been able to communicate is through [messenging service] WhatsApp.
“As the news was unfolding it did not appear that the earthquake was that bad so we felt quite comfortable they would be safe, but when the confirmation comes you do not realise how much you were worried.
“They are probably the luckiest couple in Nepal.”
George, from Peterborough Road, Castor, and Emily, from Chatsfield, Werrington, met at Arthur Mellowes school and had been travelling together for 15 months.
After working in Australia they have been visiting south east Asia and the trip to Nepal was their last before returning home.
The pair, who can see helicopters flying to and from Everest, are meeting many experienced mountaineers coming down from Everest with horrific stories of the avalanche at base camp and losing companions.
They have recently been able to use the Lukla village facilities as the threat of further tremors has receded.
They have wi-fi and food and drink and are comfortable in their tents donated by local people, even though it is cold at night.
They hope to be able to fly out from Lukla tomorrow (Thursday, April 30) or Friday, weather permitting, to get to Kathmandu and report to British Embassy officials who are on duty at the airport.
They will then have to wait for a flight home.
George and Emily are making a plea through their parents for everyone to give generously to aid charities to help the millions of Nepalese people affected by the earthquake.
A spokesman for the foreign office said: “Our thoughts are with all those who are affected by this earthquake.
“British Embassy staff are on the ground and have provided practical help to over 200 British nationals. But at this moment we have no reports of any British nationals killed or injured.
“Our teams have also been out scouring hospitals, hotels and areas popular with tourists looking for British nationals who may need assistance.
“We are urgently looking into ways we can assist further including help to get British nationals out of Nepal. The situation on the ground is highly challenging. Basic telephone communication and infrastructure are severely disrupted.
“Anyone who is caught up in this incident or worried about a loved one should call the FCO on +44 (0) 207 008 0000.
“We are playing a leading role in responding to the earthquake on the ground and the UK has released a new £5 million package of support to aid agencies in Nepal.
“The Department for International Development has deployed a team of more than 60 search and rescue responders and medical experts as part of a cross-government capacity surge to support the relief effort in Nepal.
“In addition the UK government will match pound for pound public donations up to £5 million for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal.
“A Royal Air Force C-17 will carry vital aid supplies to support the relief effort, including shelter kits and solar lanterns. Also on board are a team of Gurkha engineers.”