York archaeologist narrowly avoids Nepal earthquake by just two hours

Dr Hayley Saul and her sister are now fundraising to help survivors of the Langtang earthquake

PhD lecturer Dr Hayley Saul narrowly missed the Nepal earthquake of April 25 after leaving the village of Langtang just two hours before it was hit.

Image: DFID - UK Department for International Development

Image: DFID – UK Department for International Development

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday 25 April, causing devastation across the Himalayan nation. Large parts of the capital, Kathmandu, were flattened.

The death toll has risen to over 6,600, with more than 14,000 injured. The Nepalese authorities have ruled out finding any more survivors.

Dr Saul, who completed her archaeology degree at the the University of York, left Langtang, a small village 130km north of Kathmandu, just two hours before the earthquake demolished the entire community. The 32-year-old was in Langtang researching Tibetan Himalayan heritage by speaking with local villagers, and had previously visited the area.

Her mission was to raise funds for renovations for the monastery. Dr Saul was travelling with her friend Emma Waterton away from Langtang, on a path towards Lama Hotel when the first tremor hit. It lasted for a minute.

Several more tremors hit as they tried to make their way down the path with their tour guides. The landscape became unstable after the main tremor and minute aftershocks triggered landslides from the cliffs above the path.

Emma Price, Dr Saul’s sister, said: “The path they were trekking on had gone and they had to trek for another five or six hours to get to the next village.”

The pair zigzagged across the landscape to dodge landslides that fell less than 30 metres away. At Lama Hotel, Dr Saul and Waterton handed out their spare warm clothes to locals whose buildings were damaged beyond repair.

Dr Saul left a voicemail on her sister’s mobile urging her to contact the Foreign Office or the British Embassy to send out helicopters to rescue the stranded.

The pair then headed towards Sharpa Gaon. At 4.15pm the day after the quake, the friends, tour guides and a Slovakian woman were rescued by helicopter.

On arrival into Kathmandu, the group were informed that the entire village of Langtang had been wiped out by an avalanche, with no survivors. Price said: “The guide [Dr Saul] was with found out that his whole family had gone. It’s some kind of apocalyptic nightmare.”

Dr Saul and Waterton have created a Just Giving page dedicated to their tour guides Dawa, Chang-ju and Temba. They hope to raise $50,000 to help ease the loss of their village and contribute towards any survival efforts and have already raised 19 per cent of their total, which amounts to £3,120.15. Thirty people have donated so far.

The sisters additionally work with the charity ‘Community Action Nepal’ and are asking for donations for a relief program via their Just Giving webpage.

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