Australia preparing to evacuate its citizen on Wednesday
US begins updating details of its citizens stranded in Nepal
KATHMANDU, March 29: A total of 600 foreign nationals including Germans and citizens of other European Union (EU) nations stranded in Nepal as a result of the government's decision to enforce nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) were flown back to their home countries at the initiative of the German Embassy in Kathmandu.
Separately, 300 French, other EU nationals and Swiss nationals were also evacuated from Nepal to their home countries at the initiative of the Embassy of France in Nepal.
The German Embassy in Kathmandu used two chartered flights on Friday and Saturday to evacuate 400 Germans, 185 EU citizens and 15 people from Finland, Austria, Denmark and Poland. They were stranded in different trekking destinations as they could not get back to nearby airports to arrive in Kathmandu after the government rather abruptly announced to enforce a nationwide lockdown in view of the gravity of the impending threat that could be posed by the COVID-19 in the country.
Although trekkers from several other countries are stranded in Nepal, Germany was the first to arrange a Qatar Airways' chartered flight and evacuate its citizens to their home countries. Before evacuating them from Kathmandu, the embassy had rescued the trekkers from far-flung trekking routes.
Nepal government decided to suspend both the national and international flights since Tuesday. But it has allowed the foreign embassies to organize chartered flights to take back their citizens following requests from the concerned embassies.
Issuing a statement on Saturday, the German embassy said that both German Government and individual passengers would share the cost of the chartered flights. “Contribution will be to the tune of an economy ticket after returning to Germany. Same for EU citizens, all flew under the same conditions. The German government will bear the rest of charter costs,” the ministry said in the statement.
The German Embassy estimates that 200 German nationals are still in different regions of Nepal, most in the Himalayas. The embassy is currently looking for ways of ensuring their safe movement in close coordination with the Nepali authorities.
On Saturday, the Embassy of France in Nepal also evacuated 300 stranded tourists in Nepal. According to French Ambassador to Nepal, Francois-Xavier Leger, French, other EU and Swiss citizens were evacuated by arranging a chartered flight.
The Australian Embassy in Nepal is also preparing to evacuate their citizens stranded in Nepal as a result of the nationwide lockdown, according to tourism officials involved in rescuing trekkers. Similarly, the US embassy has asked its citizens to update their details before arranging commercial flights to fly them back to the US.
All major regional connecting airports other than Doha have suspended their air service. Trekkers stranded in Nepal are worried whether Doha also chooses shut down its service in view of the deadly virus making a rapid spread almost all parts of the globe.
Australian Ambassador to Nepal, Pete Budd in his social media account announced that the embassy is in negotiations with a new air carrier on a revised commercial service to Australia. “The service will be a direct Kathmandu to Sydney flight,” said the ambassador adding, “The costs will be USD 1,800 for economy seating and will include a USD 2,300 option for business class travel.”
While dates are yet to be confirmed, the Australian Embassy said departure might be on Wednesday. “All Australians who visited the Australian Embassy on Saturday, or who confirmed their interest with our travel provider Bon Travel are on our list of subscribed travelers,” said Ambassador Budd.
There are 175 passengers currently subscribed for the flight and 100 seats remain available. As of today, New Zealand nationals will also be offered this service.
Rescue of stranded tourists continues
Yeti and Tara airlines on Saturday recued 22 Germans from Pokhara and 53 from Lukla. Among the people rescued from Lukla, 39 are German and EU citizens and 14 Australians.
For the rescue, Yeti Airlines has sent its ATR 72 9N-AMM aircraft where as for Lukla, Tara Air has sent a VIKING 400 Twin Otter aircraft.
The relief flights were operated under permission from the government and request from the concerned embassies.
Prior to the rescue on Saturday, Yeti airlines and Tara Air together have already rescued 86 stranded foreign nationals in different parts of the country, according to a press statement issued by the airlines on Saturday.