PMB couple ‘shaken but safe’

2015-04-29 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG advocates Elsje Bezuidenhout and Shane Matthews were reported to be “shaken but safe” after being caught in the chaos of Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal.

Bezuidenhout’s brother, Eben Strydom said his sister had “cried a bit” and was “stressed” when she called and spoke to his mother on the phone early yesterday but said she and Matthews are both unhurt.

“We are overjoyed … very relieved,” he added.

His sentiments were echoed by Matthews’ son, Tyler, who said it was “so good” to hear his father’s voice on the telephone at about 4.30 am yesterday.

Family members had feared the worst when they heard about the earthquake that killed over 3 000 people, while the couple were hiking from Namche Bazaar to Lukla. They were accompanied by a Sherpa guide.

Bezuidenhout and Matthews are now desperate to get back to South Africa.

The couple is holed up at a small lodge in the rural village of Lukla with hundreds of other tourists all wanting to get home.

The couple were in contact with family members on April 23, but after the quake no one heard from them until the early hours of yesterday when they were able to borrow a phone.

Strydom said it had been impossible not to fear the worst while the family was trying to get hold of the couple and they were hugely relieved to find out they were safe after all. “Now it is just a matter of trying to get them home,” said Strydom.

“We have no idea when they will be ­returning. It is a little town with one airstrip but as far as I know, there are no planes carrying passengers in or out of Lukla … army helicopters are flying in to pick up the ­injured.”

Strydom said from what he had heard from the couple, there were over 100 ­tourists stranded in the tiny village of Lukla all waiting to return home.

With the devastation of the earthquake behind them, the couple will have to brave Lukla’s Tenzing Hillary Airport, which was rated the most dangerous airport in the world in 2010.

“They are in contact with the local ­authorities at the moment, to try and get home as soon as possible,” said Strydom.

Matthew’s son, Wesley said their father’s call to them was very brief because the ­couple had to borrow a phone. “They said they were all alright and that everything was very chaotic over there,” he said.

The couple is staying at Namaste Lodge in Lukla, until they can get back to South Africa.

However, family members said most of the phone lines in the area are down so communication is difficult, if not impossible.

The Witness tried calling the lodge but was unable to get through.

With the death toll sitting at over 3 000 people, and counting, search and rescue groups and organisations from South ­Africa and all over the world have flown to Nepal to assist.

Pietermaritzburg’s own K9 unit search and rescue policeman, Jack Haskins, was handpicked for the South African rescue mission deployed to assist in Nepal yesterday afternoon.

Gift of the Givers Foundation, who organised the South African search and rescue team said they would be deploying more people to assist in the rescue efforts.

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