“It was just like 2001 quake of Gujarat which I experienced in Isanpur, except the duration of the Nepal earthquake felt very long,” said Bhargav Trivedi, a tour manager with a local travel agency who returned with his staff of 12 people to Ahmedabad on Monday evening by IAF jumbo jet.
Trivedi added, “We had just bought tickets for Manakamana Devi temple in Pokhara valley, atop a hillock, when we felt the tremors. While our group of 82 people took shelter in an open garden, we saw people loosing their limbs as the temple fell apart and we saw three dead bodies being brought down. As aftershocks kept coming, our group managed to reach the hotel and spent the night in the bus. But the real ordeal began once we reached the airport. A long queue of 5000 odd tourists, including many Indians were all waiting to fly back home.”
“Nepalese policemen even kept hitting people to keep the crowd away from the airport. We kept calling the official contacts given by Indian Embassy officials, but their phones were switched off. Finally, I reached out to our ex BJP MP Harin Pathak, who had a word with officials at the airport and we got a chance to come home, otherwise we may have been stranded there itself. We have not eaten proper food or drank water in last two days. At Kathmandu airport we had to shell out Rs 320 for water bottles as all general stores were closed.”
64-year old Arunaben Thakkar from Vadodara, who landed at Ahmedabad airport in an Indigo flight late on Monday morning from Delhi, was at the Pashupatinath temple with a group of 5, when she felt the tremors. Recalling the ominous Nepal trip which began on April 18, Thakkar is still groggy and shaken from the two sleepless nights following the quake.
“Six of us were inside the temple precinct when the whole temple, including its towers started shaking badly. As we tried to get out, walls started crumbling and stones fell around us. For three hours we sat inside the temple complex even as walls collapsed before our eyes. We later walked 2 kms to our hotel, as our Nepali driver had left having lost his son in the quake. Horrific scenes of devastation unfolded before us, as people were looking for their relatives in the rubble, while ambulance sirens rent the air. Finally, at the Kathmandu airport, we had to shell out Rs 250-300 for water bottles and Rs 450 for biscuit packets and had to make do without proper food, as it began raining there. We even lost some of our luggage at the hotel as it could not be retrieved.”
As per DN Pandey Gujarat Relief Commissioner, around 525 tourists from Gujarati are already back, while the status on 200 more is yet to be ascertained. “We do not have reports on 200 odd people as communication links have not been established, but many have taken the road routes back to India even. All are safe and no casualties have been reported yet,” Pandey said.
One such case of an Amdavadi resident who is stuck in Nepal without any communication is DJ Harsh Patel. “My son was heading to Kathmandu on the 23rd for a music festival and I last spoke with him on 24th night. He told me they are going to some new venue called Hattiban resort, 20 kms from Kathmandu. Harsh had last sent a Whatsapp chat to his cousin, saying that he was safe, but the resort where they are putting up had no transportation, communication or electricity. On contacting the resort, people there told us that around 400 people are holed up there and may have to walk all the way to the airport to come back. While we know that he is safe, we have not been able to speak to him yet,” said Neelam Patel, mother of Harsh Patel- a part time city-based DJ, who is taking the aid of Harsh’s friends who have since put out his number and photo on social media, to gather his whereabouts.
A corresponding Facebook post of the Universal Religion festival in Nepal which was to be attended by Harsh, read,”We are more then 400+ people safe on outskirts of Kathmandu at Hattiban Resort. We trying to provide shelter and food to all festival guests who are here with us.”
One of the four officials manning the helplines numbers, launched by Gujarat Government post the tragedy, said, “Within 10 minutes of starting the helpline, we received almost 400 calls from relatives of people stranded in Nepal after the quake. However, almost 95 % of people from state have already returned, the situation is less grave now. There have been no reports of any injuries or casualties among state tourists and almost 8 to 10 people have not been traced due to break in communication and transportation.”
Speaking on the status of Gujarati tourists arriving from Kathmandu, Bharat Lal, Resident Commissioner of Gujarat Bhawan said, “This office is coordinating with Indian authorities based at Kathmandu as well as MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) to bring them back. Our people receive or meet them at the airport. Most of them want to go directly to Gujarat. While 13 passengers were at Gujarat Bhawan, while we had about 40 odd of them accommodated at Gujarati Samaj.”