Prince Harry hopes to draw focus to quake-hit Nepal with visit

Britain's Prince Harry walks out from the Tribhuvan International Airport upon his arrival in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 19, 2016.
Britain's Prince Harry walks out from the Tribhuvan International Airport upon his arrival in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 19, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

KATHMANDU (AFP) - Britain's Prince Harry arrived in Nepal on Saturday (March 19) for a five-day visit and said he hopes to "shine a spotlight" on resilience of Nepali people recovering from last year's devastating quake.

"I pay my respects to those who perished and hope to do what I can to shine a spotlight on the resilience of the Nepali people," Prince Harry said in his address at a reception held by Nepal's government to welcome him on Saturday evening.

"I want to show all those people around the world who want to help that this is a country open for business - so please come and visit again," he said.

The Prince will meet with survivors of last year's devastating earthquake and Gurkha soldiers who helped in rescue efforts on his first visit to the country, which celebrates 200 years of joint relations between Nepal and Britain.

Harry, 31, met Nepal's prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli after his arrival and is scheduled to hold a meeting with the country's first female president, Bidhya Bhandari, during the weekend.

The Prince is set to visit heritage sites hit by a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake last April that killed nearly 9,000 people, with the country still reeling from the after-effects.

A member of the British army for 10 years before retiring in June, he served along with Gurkha soldiers in Afghanistan and will meet members of the brigade during his visit.

The British army's 2,500-strong Gurkha brigade is made up of soldiers recruited in Nepal and has been part of the military for 200 years.

"I served alongside Gurkhas during my first tour of Afghanistan and I look forward to visiting the communities that have produced and supported these extraordinary soldiers," he said.

The Prince's tour will also take him to Bardia National Park in western Nepal, famous for its tiger conservation efforts, according to a statement on his official website.

Harry also plans to undertake a trek on the foothills of the Himalayas as well as spending a night at a Gurkha soldier's home.

"I look forward to exploring your landscapes, celebrating your culture, and I hope to make many new friends along the way," the Prince said.

"I cannot wait to get out and see all that this country has to offer."

Following the earthquake, Nepal is desperate to revive tourism including its mountaineering industry, key revenue-earners for the impoverished Himalayan nation.

"His visit is very important, and will send a positive message about Nepal to the world," said Ram Hari Adhikari, general secretary of the UK Nepal Friendship Society.

Nepal, a former kingdom, has been visited by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana.