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Group of SA schoolgirls in Nepal when deadly quake hit

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A group of school girls from Pretoria was among those who survived a devastating earthquake in Nepal on Saturday

”Earthquake in Nepal. Please keep our travelling World Challenge Team girls in your prayers. We have heard from the one team and expect to hear from the other soon. Will keep you posted,” read a worried message on the St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls Facebook page on Saturday as news spread that more than 1 400 people had been killed in the destruction that followed the natural disasters.

This was followed by a relieved update which said: ”All teams have been accounted for and are safe”.

On Friday morning , the day before the quake, photographs of the eight girls showed them enjoying ”The Beautiful Himalayas”.

But by Saturday morning there were frantic efforts to make contact with them as parts of the country lay in ruins.

Cape Town-based Adventure Global, a company which specialises in expeditions, said it had an expedition in the region when the quake and avalanche struck, but had managed to locate its team, led by South African Ronnie Muhl.

When news of the disaster spread, the company posted: ”Hi all, this is from Cape Town. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the earthquake in Nepal by now.

The best we can do is wait to hear from the team. I’m certain Ronnie will contact us as soon as possible. It could well be that communication is problematic as a result of damage caused by the earthquake. We hope for the best and are thinking of them.”

Their team consisted of Muhl, Donna McTaggart from South Africa, Alyssa Azar from Australia, Anshu Jamsenpa from India and Chhurim Sherpa from Nepal.

McTaggart had hoped to be the fourth South African woman to summit Everest.

An update later said: ”Chelsea from Cape Town again… I have been able to speak to Alyssa Azar’s admin in Australia and word is that Ronnie, Alyssa, Donna and the Sherpas who were with them are safe in Gorak Shep.

Department of international relations and co-operation spokesperson Clayson Monyela said all South Africans there had been accounted for and President Jacob Zuma had sent a message of condolences to Nepal.

”The president issued a message of condolences to the government and people of Nepal following this devastating earthquake which has claimed hundreds and hundreds of lives,” said Monyela.

Meanwhile, South African humanitarian group Gift of the Givers was scrambling to send 20 search and rescue volunteers and 20 medical trauma specialists to Nepal to help.

”The devastating earthquake in Nepal necessitates a worldwide response given the magnitude of the destruction and the large loss of life in this poor Himalayan country,” said Gift of the Givers head Imtiaz Solliman.

They will leave as soon as their visa and other logistics are finalised and will take R5m worth of search and rescue and medical equipment, and medical supplies on the mission.

”Tents, food, bottled water and other essential supplies for affected victims will be purchased from India,” he said.

Search and rescue and medical personnel can forward their names and speciality to sooliman@giftofthegivers.org in case they send more volunteers.

They would bolster efforts by other organisations such as International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) who are also mobilising to help.

“We do not yet know the scope of the damage, but this could be one of the deadliest and most devastating earthquakes since the 1934 tremor which devastated Nepal and Bihar,” said Jagan Chapagain, Asia/Pacific director of the IFRC, according to Agence France Presse. News24


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