Singaporean and PR evacuees arrive home

A total of 89 Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) have been evacuated from quake-stricken Nepal.

The first batch of 74 people landed at Paya Lebar Air Base at around 12.45am yesterday on a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 plane.

A second C-130 carrying 15 passengers landed later yesterday.

Most of them were among the more than 200 Singaporeans and PRs in Nepal who had registered with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

Those registered with the MFA and still in Nepal will be flown home on commercial airlines, said Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs.

He spoke to reporters at Paya Lebar Air Base, where he welcomed the first batch of evacuees yesterday morning.

The MFA was trying to contact five Singaporeans who had registered with the ministry, he said.

"We do not know the situation they are in. We hope they are well," said Mr Masagos. "We'll work as hard as we can to (contact the five people) and to get them out of Nepal as soon as possible."

The Straits Times understands that by last night, just two people could not be contacted.

The evacuation plans were delayed when the RSAF planes initially could not land at Kathmandu airport on Tuesday because of congestion. They later landed on the same day.

One Singaporean who returned home yesterday was operations executive Lim Kun Jie, 26, who was in Nepal to trek at Mount Everest.

He felt "strong shakes" after arriving at Kathmandu airport on Saturday, half an hour before the quake took place.

He said it was chaotic at the airport. "A lot of the flights were cancelled, delayed, and we were told that there was too little space in the airport and none of the planes could land."

At Paya Lebar Air Base yesterday, family members and friends of the evacuees waited anxiously and received their loved ones with tears, cheers and hugs.

Madam Emily Chan, 35, an administrative executive, was there to greet her sister Chan Yee Bei, 24, who had gone to Nepal with two friends.

Said Madam Chan: "We couldn't sleep and just kept trying to contact her until we finally heard from her on Sunday. We are very relieved that she is back home safely."

Yesterday, Mr Masagos announced that the Government will donate another $150,000 for relief efforts to the Singapore Red Cross, on top of an earlier $100,000.

The Singapore Red Cross also said last night it had received about $300,000 in cash and cheque donations for its quake relief fund.

Humanitarian aid group Mercy Relief had collected $248,000 as of 5.30pm yesterday. It said it will send a medical mission team to Kathmandu tomorrow.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg