Pokhara in Nepal 050219 SOURCE Forces News.jpeg

Gurkhas Praised For Rescuing British Tourists Stranded In Nepal

Pokhara in Nepal 050219 SOURCE Forces News.jpeg

More than 100 British travellers stranded in isolated parts of Nepal when the coronavirus outbreak struck have been rescued by the Gurkhas.

Soldiers, UK embassy staff and drivers travelled more than 4,000 miles through the Himalayas to reach tourists stuck in mountainous towns, villages and national parks, the Foreign Office said.

The three-week rescue mission was launched to help some 109 British people, along with 28 foreign nationals, to reach charter flights sent to repatriate Britons last month amid strict lockdown measures.

Soldiers from the British Gurkhas Nepal network, based in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Dharan, negotiated river crossings and landslides to reach them, the FCO said.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said Sergeant Prakash Gurung, of 29 Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, navigated treacherous roads to rescue a British solo traveller from Manang, in north-west Nepal, before driving the nine and a half hours back to Kathmandu to catch a UK charter flight.

Sergeant Gurung, who has completed three tours of Iraq, as well as serving in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Kenya and Germany, said: "I stepped up to volunteer because I thought it was a part of my job.

"Helping people in dire situations gives me a sense of satisfaction.

"The gratitude people expressed in messages has encouraged me to do more of this sort of work."

The coronavirus outbreak severely reduced transport routes in Nepal, leaving tourists stranded in remote locations.

Some soldiers and drivers sent to their rescue had to set up camp for the night on the side of the road because of the long and hazardous journeys, the FCO said.

"Getting British nationals home in such an unprecedented time is a huge challenge around the world, but in a country like Nepal, with such extreme conditions, it would have been impossible to get everyone back without the close collaboration of the embassy and British Gurkhas Nepal," British Ambassador to Nepal, Nicola Pollitt, said.

"We have been able to reunite more than 700 British travellers with their families in the UK, and that would not have been possible without the tireless work of our embassy and Gurkha team.”

"It is both fitting and in keeping with the role of the armed forces that when called on for assistance that we do our very best to support those in need," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Wettenhall, Deputy Commander of the British Gurkhas Nepal, said.

"We are delighted that we were able to assist the British Embassy, British nationals and our soldiers and families in Nepal through this trying time," he added.

Cover image: A library picture of Pokhara, Nepal.