NEPAL QUAKE | SINGAPORE'S EFFORTS

Diversion of RSAF planes puts evacuation, relief plans on hold

PLANS to evacuate Singaporeans from quake-hit Nepal were delayed when three Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 planes could not land at Kathmandu airport yesterday because of congestion.

Two of the RSAF planes were diverted to Kolkata in India. The third C-130, which left Singapore on Sunday night, was re-routed to the Indian city of Patna.

All three planes are expected to arrive in Kathmandu today.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in a Facebook post yesterday that the diversions were due to congestion at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport.

"Ground commanders tell me conditions at Kathmandu can be challenging. The airport is about 1,300m above sea level and weather conditions can change rapidly.

"Frustrating to all concerned, when so much help is needed," added Dr Ng.

The diversions have also put on hold the Republic's rescue and relief efforts. On board the planes are nearly 50 men and women, and four dogs, from the Singapore Civil Defence Forceand the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre, as well as relief aid.

Noting that other countries are also pledging assistance, Dr Ng said essential items such as clean water, food, shelter and medical services will be needed.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Red Cross said its first response team would be in Nepal tomorrow to ascertain needs on the ground.

After that, three medical teams will be deployed, with the first team expected to be on the ground later this week.

Among the Singaporeans who had hoped to leave Nepal yesterday was Mr Seumas Yeo, 26, one of the four Singaporeans who were attempting to fly the Singapore flag on Mount Everest.

The economics graduate was injured on April 15 during the team's Lobuche summit climb. He had surgery and was recovering at Norvic International Hospital in Kathmandu when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal.

The other three members of Aluminaid Team Singapura Everest 2015 are still waiting at Everest Base Camp for an opportunity to continue the mission, said the team's co-leader, Mr Muhd Hilwan, who is based in Singapore.

"They are safe and away from danger," he said.

In Singapore, organisations and aid agencies have also started to collect aid to help the quake victims.

For instance, the Rahmatan Lil Alamin Foundation and the 68 mosques islandwide are launching a donation drive today.

jermync@sph.com.sg