PMB couple feel lucky to be alive after quake

2015-05-04 06:23
Safely back home, Pietermaritzburg travelers Elsje Bezuidenhout and Shane Matthews. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Safely back home, Pietermaritzburg travelers Elsje Bezuidenhout and Shane Matthews. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

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THE Pietermaritzburg couple who were in Nepal when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck two weeks ago said they were lucky to have escaped injury or death.

Advocates Shane Matthews and Elsje Bezuidenhout said they were ­hiking up a steep incline just outside the Nepali village Lukla when disaster struck.

“We were half an hour outside Lukla when everything just started shaking,” said Bezuidenhout.

“At first, I though I was busy having a stroke, I thought there was something wrong with me but then the next minute our guide shouted ‘earthquake!’.”

The couple said it was a terrifying experience and if they had been just 100 metres below, they would have been struck by large boulders dislodged by the earthquake.

“We were very lucky,” said Matthews.

“Just before the earthquake hit, we saw an old man pass us, carrying about 100 kg of wooden beams on his back. He died just a few metres behind us.”

The couple and their group trekked into Lukla where they heard stories of fellow tourists and locals “running for their lives”.

Without access to the Internet, telephones or television, the couple said they had no idea about the scale of the devastation the earthquake had caused.

“It took us five days to get out of Lukla. As we drove into Kathmandu, we just saw absolute chaos,” said Matthews.

“People were camped outside on the streets. People had their beds on the pavements. No one was inside.”

The couple said they drove into Kathmandu town and were shocked at what they saw.

“What happened to us all fades to insignificance when you see what happened there. When we drove into Kathmandu only then did we realise the extent of the damage,” said Matthews.

Bezuidenhout described a modern skyscraper in the city centre that had been turned into the “leaning tower of Pisa” by the earthquake.

“Some of the villages we had visited before the earthquake were completely flattened. When we heard this, we realised the magnitude of the situation,” said Bezuidenhout.

She said the earthquake had even cracked the Lukla Airport’s runway but all that was on her mind was getting back to her family.

She said they finally left Nepal on Thursday night and were overwhelmed with relief and joy to see their family when they landed on Saturday morning.

“We are going to have a family braai this afternoon [yesterday]. It’s been a stressful time not only for us, but our family too and since we got back we have been on the phone non-stop with family and friends who are all happy to have us home,” said Bezuidenhout

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