Local trekkers leave Kathmandu four hours before quake strikes

Five Galloway trekkers had a lucky escape last Saturday as they boarded the last international flight out of Kathmandu just hours before the devastating earthquake and resulting avalanche hit.

With 18 killed on the Nepalese mountain and thousands dead on the ground, the group was travelling home via Instabul when the news of the 7.8 magnitude quake broke.

Susan McColm, Claire Hunter, Michael Chandler and George Tunnock were part of a group being led by Creetown’s Brian Hall and Chhatra Karki, who has been joining Brian in leading treks to Everest Base Camp for 10 years.

Having completed the trek, with Claire, Michael and George doing so as a means of raising substantial amounts of money for different charities, the group left the country just four hours before tragedy struck.

With a difficult trek under their belts after Chhatra became ill with altitude sickness, the Gallovidians escaped further challenges by leaving when they did.

But the group left behind two members, husband and wife Mike and Brenda from Yorkshire, after an error with their flight booking and those travelling home had a nervous wait to find out if their companions had made it to safety.

After managing to make contact, Stranraer College lecturer Brian said: “They were walking along a narrow street when Mike said he felt as though he was walking on paving stones which appeared loose. This was immediately followed by a deep rumbling noise which he at first thought was a large vehicle behind him. Then the ground began to shake knocking his wife Brenda to the ground. This shaking continued for minutes and all the buildings around them began swaying. One two storey building collapsed and slates, windows and stonework from other buildings began falling on the road. All around them people were falling off their motor bikes and cars were crashing.”

Brian continued: “They eventually made it back to their hotel and joined other guests and staff in the hotel gardens as the area was hit by a further 16 tremors. That night they slept on sofas in the hotel lobby which enabled them to rush into the relative safety of the garden during further tremors.

On the following day they travelled to a chaotic Kathmandu Airport and had only just checked in when there was a further massive tremor. All around people screamed, burst into tears and rushed out of the terminal buildings onto the runway. Turkish Airlines quickly boarded their passengers and eight hours later they were safe and settled in a hotel in Istanbul.”

Brian said: “We’ve been very lucky.”