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Emotional reunion for Nepal Britons

Published 30/04/2015

A lion sculpture stands in the rubble caused by Saturday's earthquake in Sakhu, on the outskirts of Kathmandu (AP)
A lion sculpture stands in the rubble caused by Saturday's earthquake in Sakhu, on the outskirts of Kathmandu (AP)
Members of the UK's International Search and Rescue team going to work in Chautara in response to Saturday's earthquake in Nepal (PA/DIFD)

Britons who were left stranded in earthquake-hit Nepal have started to return to the UK as the death toll from the disaster continued to rise.

More than 100 UK nationals were reunited with loved ones in emotional scenes after landing back on home soil at Stansted Airport shortly after 3am today.

It came as the death toll from the devastating 7.8-magnitude quake rose to 5,844, according to the Nepalese authorities.

Three Royal Air Force CH47 Chinook helicopters will be sent from RAF Brize Norton to Nepal , International Development Secretary Justine Greening has said.

Ms Greening said the UK Government is also providing £2.5 million to the UN's Humanitarian Air Service, which will increase helicopter capacity, enabling aid supplies to be taken to more isolated areas.

"These highly versatile Royal Air Force helicopters and UN aircraft will mean life-saving aid supplies can be moved around Nepal and reach people in remote communities cut off by the earthquake who are in desperate need," she said.

"Conditions in Nepal are dire, but the UK is determined to do everything it can to help support Nepal and its people."

The RAF helicopters will travel to Nepal in the next few days.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office said that a British dual national killed in the disaster was Hemchandra Rai, 42, a married father of three who lived in Hong Kong.

Reports that a Briton had been killed at Mount Everest Base Camp are still being investigated.

This morning, two Foreign Office teams were dispatched to help UK nationals outside the capital, Kathmandu.

Some 11,175 people have been injured in the disaster, as amazing stories of survival continued to emerge - including a boy of 15 and a woman in her 20s who were pulled from the rubble five days after disaster struck on Saturday.

Nepalese rescuers worked for hours to free Pemba Tamang from the debris of a seven-storey building which had collapsed in the capital.

Hours later Krishna Devi Khadka was rescued in an area near Kathmandu's main bus terminal.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said the British public had now donated more than £19 million to its Nepal earthquake appeal, just a day after it was launched.

DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said: "People in the UK have, once again, shown their generosity by responding to help those whose lives have been devastated by disaster."

The UK Government has also pledged £15 million.

An RAF C-17 aircraft arrived in Nepal today carrying a team of Gurkha engineers and 18 tonnes of crucial supplies, including shelter kits and solar lanterns.

Meanwhile, Nepalese soldiers from the Brigade of Gurkhas who were marching in London to commemorate their 200 years of service to the British armed forces said they stood by their people following the tragedy.

Gurkha Major Dev Gurung said: "As a regiment and as a nation, we have suffered this natural disaster of unthinkable magnitude.

"Of course, the road will be long but we are very hopeful that we will prevail."

Nepal's Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, has said the death toll could eventually rise to more than 10,000.

Eight million people have been affected by the disaster, which has wiped out entire villages, according to the United Nations.

Some 300 British citizens have been housed in the embassy in Kathmandu since the earthquake struck.

But the sister of a yoga student stranded in Nepal has criticised the embassy's response to her plight as "useless".

Susannah Ross, 20, was trapped in the remote Bamboo Village in Langtang National Park for five days with a group of trekkers.

Miss Ross, from Bath, Somerset, was finally evacuated by a helicopter and then taken to a military base at Dhunche, to the north of Kathmandu.

Her sister, Nina Ross, 25, said: "I haven't heard anything to say that she has been in contact with the British embassy or the FCO.

"I don't know if they have done anything. When I last talked to them, again, they were as useless as ever."

The families of Joanne Frusher, 36, and her fiance, Andrew Tucknott, 39, from Brighton, contacted parliamentary candidate for Brighton Pavillion Caroline Lucas to ask why more was not being done to help British nationals.

The pair have been stranded on a mountain in Langtang since Saturday and reportedly complained to their families that Britons were being left behind because of a lack of help from UK rescue teams.

After Ms Lucas asked for an urgent update, the Foreign Office replied: "We are passing details about the location of British nationals in the Langtang area to the Nepali authorities organising evacuations from the area.

"We are also working closely with local search and rescue teams in the area."

Among the UK nationals who returned today on a chartered flight which flew aid to Nepal on Sunday were children, the elderly and people chosen as a priority because of health conditions.

The youngest passenger was a four-month-old baby while the oldest are thought to have been in their 60s.

Some spoke of their lucky escapes and said they had seen many people, mainly locals, who had suffered far worse.

Roger Strachan, 19, from York, who had been in Nepal working as a voluntary teacher, said: "We must remember there are thousands of Nepalese people living in very squalid shelters even at this moment and in a much more threatened position than we were in."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: " Our teams are working round the clock to assist British nationals and have given practical assistance to more than 300 so far.

"This morning we deployed two FCO teams to locate and assist British nationals in remote areas. Today they assisted eight British nationals who were rescued from Dhunche and are now being transported to Kathmandu. There they will join those who were rescued from the mountains yesterday and are being supported by embassy staff.

"We continue to work closely with the Nepalese search and rescue teams, providing them with all details we have on British Nationals and their locations."

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