Nepal earthquake: Stranded at Kathmandu airport and sleeping on mats, Singaporeans await eagerly to return home

KATHMANDU - It is my third day stranded here in Nepal's Tribhuvan International Airport. About 50 other Singaporeans are here with me. We are waiting eagerly for a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 plane to land here so we can return home. One is scheduled to land at 10.30am today (April 28) Nepal time (12.45pm Singapore time).

Despite the anticipation, we do not think that the plane will be able to land on time. The RSAF planes did not land on Monday (April 27) due to congestion. There seems to be a shortage of space for planes to land. We have also heard that refuelling of planes is a problem. Many flights are getting cancelled at the last minute.

Some Singaporeans stayed in hotels on Monday night, after the RSAF didn't manage to land. They returned to the airport by 7am this morning to report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) officials here.

The rest of us slept on yoga mats outside the airport.

Apparently, there was a tremor last night. I did not feel anything, but some who stayed in the hotels said they ran out of the buidings. However, it was nothing as strong as the one that hit Nepal on April 25.

MFA and a Silkair representative here arranged for yoga mats, food and water, which has helped everyone cope much better. We have bottled water and snacks. The previous nights, we slept on the cold floor when it rained or on grass patches by the carpark.

The only electrical point is outside the airport where people have been charging their mobile phones.

Food was initially hard to get because shops were closed. I had my local guide with me so he found us biscuits and water. But some shops have started to open since Sunday. Security was initially tight outside the airport to prevent people from coming in unless we have a flight to catch. Many of us stayed put in the airport for this reason.

Security is more lax now, so we can go out and buy food. Most Singaporeans have been walking out of the airport to buy instant noodles or dhal bhat, a popular rice and lentil dish here.

Buying flight tickets out now is a gamble because if the plane does not land, the ticket may become useless. There is no guarantee that you will automatically get a seat on the next flight. Silkair has been the only airline to Singapore that had managed to leave on Sunday with a five-hour delay.

Over the past three days, three to five India military planes have landed and taken thousands of Indians out. Bhutan has regular flights in and out too. If RSAF aircrafts are delayed again today, we will try to get on a Silkair flight.

The writer, a photojournalist with The Straits Times, went to Nepal for a 10-day trek with her husband and was due to fly out on April 25, the day an earthquake with magnitude 7.8 shook the country. More than 4,000 people have died in the disaster, and many more have been injured.

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