Maritzburg couple missing in Nepal

2015-04-29 09:24

PIETERMARITZBURG advocates ­Shane Matthews and his partner Elsje Bezuidenhout are among thousands of people­ missing after Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal­.

Accompanied by a Sherpa guide, the couple were trekking from Namche ­Bazaar - a village in the Solukhumbu district in north-eastern Nepal - to Lukla, home to the Tenzing-Hillary Airport and the place where most people start the climb to the Mount Everest base camp.

They had been planning to catch a plane from the tiny airport to Kathmandu on Monday.

There are daily flights between Lukla and Kathmandu during daylight hours, and in good weather. Lukla was rated the most dangerous airport in the world in 2010.

The couple’s names have not appeared on any official list of South Africans missing in Nepal.

Bezuidenhout’s brother, Eben Strydom however said; “We have had no news since 23 April and we are quite worried at the moment.

“When we last heard from them they were somewhere between Namche Bazaar and Lukla when the earthquake happened. It’s an area between the mountains and that’s why we are so worried.”

Matthews’s sister, Linda Cloete said the family has faith and is clinging to the hope that the couple is okay.

“ Power has been cut and communications are down all over so its quite likely they simply cannot get in touch. We are in a bit of a state, but we are trying to keep it together,” she added.

Pietermaritzburg Search and Rescue policeman Jack Haskins and his dog Bear are part of a South African rescue mission being deployed in Nepal by the Gift of the Givers.

Haskins, who left for Johannesburg on Monday night, said the team expect to fly to Nepal today or tomorrow.

The earthquake triggered avalanches in the mountains.

Survivors on Mount Everest described “a cloud of rock and ice” that smashed into base camp on Saturday.

More than 60 people were injured, leading climbers to send frantic messages calling for helicopter assistance to evacuate the wounded.

An estimated 100 climbers and guides were reported safe, but trapped at camps one and two, after­ the quake rendered the treacherous Khumbu icefalls leading up to them from base camp, impassable.

Matthews (59) and Bezuidenhout (46), who live in Clarendon, are regular visitors to Nepal and the Himalayas.

“They have been going back and forth for the past six or seven years,” Matthews’s son Wesley said, adding that mountaineering has been his dad’s passion for the past 10 years.

Wesley said he and his brother, Tyler plan to stay online and keep positive as they wait for news.

“We are trying not to stress too much, but obviously the concern is there,” he added.

Strydom and the Matthews brothers have, in the meantime, created missing person profiles on Google’s person finder and the Red Cross family links site.

They are also trying every avenue­ they can think of to find out information about the couple’s whereabouts.

Strydom said: “They were travelling with a Sherpa and have sent e-mails from his address before, so I have tried sending him an e-mail.

“I have also sent e-mails to all the charter companies that fly from Lukla Airport, to see if they have any information, but lots of my mails have come back, so I think the infrastructure for communication is probably down.”

The number of people killed in Nepal by the country’s worst earthquake in eight decades has risen to 3 726, a home ministry official said on Monday.

It is the worst disaster in Nepal since 1934 when 8 500 died and more than 6 500 were injured.

Gift of the Givers said in a statement the logistical difficulties in getting to Nepal meant the organisation would probably charter a flight to carry its search and rescue teams, medical personnel, equipment and supplies.

All South Africans in Nepal are welcome to use the private aircraft to return home safely at no cost. For details contact Estelle van Jaarsveld at 083 287 5988.

Anyone wanting to make a donation can make a deposit into Gift of the Givers account, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, account number 052278611, branch code 057525

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