Hundreds Queue Up Outside Kathmandu Airport in Hope of Way Out

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Passengers sleeping on the pavement outside the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, waiting to leave the country.


Kathmandu:  There is a long line, perhaps a kilometre long, outside the Kathmandu airport, with people anxious to leave Nepal, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake yesterday. More than 2200 people have died in the earthquake, which reduced many parts of capital city Kathmandu to rubble.

Over a 1000 people braved the night chill and light rain since last night outside the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, waiting to leave the country. Many have flights later in the day but hope they can fly out earlier.

The earthquake struck at a busy time of year for the tourism-dependent country's trekking and climbing season, with an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country for the trekking and climbing season.

"The house pillars shook as if they were trees in the wind" says Neeraj Chauhan who works with the United Nations in Kathmandu. Mr Chauhan had invited his parents to visit him, a decision he now regrets.

"I thought this was the end for me," says Mr Chauhan's mother, Premalata, describing the quake. "My husband and I have tickets to go back today, but not our son. And I will not go back without him," she adds as she breaks down.

There are hundreds like the Chauhan family, who have been sitting in line to get entry to the airport, and hopefully passage home. While commercial flights have resumed and the Indian Air Force has evacuated several hundred stranded tourists, the sheer number of tourists waiting a way out is posing a problem.

"There is no water here or food. I have been sitting with my wife and child since early morning," says Mohammad Pervez. Originally from Bihar's Madhubani District, he had been running a small business here, but that has been destroyed in the quake. "We just want to get back home to India now," says Mr Pervez, tightly holding his three-year-old daughter

Nearby, Lu Hee plays cards with her friends in the parking lot of the airport, which has been turned into a waiting area for hundreds of stranded travellers.

"I had come only two days ago. But now, I want to head back to my home in Tibet," says Lu Hee. "I don't mind waiting here. At least I am thankful for being alive," she adds.

The Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu was closed for a few hours after the 7.9 magnitude quake struck. Flights resumed later in the evening.

The Ministry of External Affairs has announced the phone numbers of officials coordinating the evacuation effort, at both the Indian mission and the airport in Kathmandu. It has also set up telephone and e-mail helplines where stranded Indians can reach out for help. Air India has resumed operations today, with services from Delhi and Kathmandu.

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