28 April 2015
President Jacob Zuma has conveyed a message of condolences to the government and people of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal after being hit by an earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale on Saturday.
The death toll is reportedly nearing 5 000. Millions of others have been displaced by the quake and its aftershocks, with the United Nations estimating that as many as 8-million people have been affected by the disaster.
“Our thoughts are with the people of Nepal and neighbouring countries in the aftermath of the earthquake that has struck the Kathmandu Valley. On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, I send my deepest condolences to the government of Nepal and to everyone affected, particularly to the families and friends of those killed and injured,” Zuma said in a statement.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation said on Monday it remained in contact with local authorities in Nepal and, to its knowledge, all South Africans who may have been caught in an earthquake in the region at the weekend were accounted for.
Anyone who is unable to contact friends or family in the area should contact the department, spokesperson Clayon Monyela said.
- Concerned families or friends who may be battling to contact a South African in Nepal can contact Dirco on 011-351-1000.
The first rescue team from South Africa will join other members of the Gift of the Givers Foundation in Nepal on Tuesday, the foundation says on its website. They will transport food, medical equipment, sanitation and other basic necessities.
“Twenty highly qualified search and rescue personnel together with world-class technological equipment including the Life Locator, a machine that can accurately predict the presence of life 10 meters below the rubble in 3 minutes; the search cam, a camera facility that provides video footage as the team search through rubble; and other relevant equipment is available and ready as an integral part of our response capability,” Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement on the foundation’s website.
Gift of the Givers said that “given the logistical difficulties in getting to Nepal” they would charter its own flight to transport its teams and equipment. “The flight will serve a dual purpose,” Sooliman said. “All South Africans caught up in Nepal are most welcome to utilise the private aircraft to return home safely. This will be at no cost to any who choose to return in this manner.”
Avalanche on Everest
Meanwhile, Netwerk24 reports that Sean Wisedale, the first South African to summit the world’s seven highest peaks, has been updating his blog from the Everest base camp, where some climbers are trapped. At least 18 people have already died on the mountain.
Wisedale survived an avalanche on Everest that resulted after the earthquake and aftershocks that hit Nepal on the weekend.
He described the terror experienced when the “mountains and glaciers started trembling”, and how it wiped out stones and rocks on its path of destruction.
Hundreds of tents in the middle of the base camp were hit. Wisedale and his group’s tents were protected by a rock, but they could not escape being hit by a shard of crystalised ice that fell from a height of about 100m.
He also describes how his heart literally misses a beat every time he hears a rumble. Wisedale wrote that they had thought about evacuating the base camp, but they were probably safer where they were.
South Africans trapped
At least 10 South Africans are reportedly trapped on Mount Everest following the avalanche, the group Ubuntu Everest said.
Among the trapped South Africans is Saray Khumalo, a 43-year-old from Johannesburg, who was hoping to become the first black woman to summit Everest on 20 May.
On Sunday, Khumalo sent a text message to Ubuntu Everest saying she was safe.
The other South Africans in the group are Lysle Turner, Ronnie Muhl, Donna McTaggart, Elizabeth Bool, Marlette Hegyi, Wilmien van der Merwe, Nico Oosthuizen and Katlego Letheo.
They are believed to be safe, but it is still uncertain how they will come down from the mountain.
SAinfo reporter and Netwerk24