POLITICS

Four Canadians evacuated from Nepal recuperating together in India

05/03/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 05/02/2016 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Amid the destruction and recovery efforts in Nepal, four Canadians are taking solace in each other's company after being evacuated from the earthquake-stricken country to India.

Tamara McLeod, 24, from Calgary, was in the small village of Briddim in the Langtang region of the Himalayas, to the north of the Kathmandu Valley, when the magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck last Saturday.

"We were sitting in the room when the earthquake began and the stone, we were in a stone house, started falling from the roof and we had to escape the building. We were on the second floor and the walls were caving in and the roof was collapsing," she told The Canadian Press in a phone interview from New Delhi.

"We all started running towards the rice fields and that's where we spent the hours after the earthquake when we were experiencing all of the aftershocks and the tremors."

McLeod said that most of the houses in the village were destroyed, making them "unlivable and unsafe" to go near during the aftershocks that persisted for five days after the initial quake.

"The village set up kind of a temporary camp in the garden in the field below the village, so everyone was in tents," she said. "I was sleeping in a shelter where a cow normally sleeps under, we just put a tarp over that and slept on the ground there."

McLeod said she remained there for four days until a helicopter evacuated her and a few others to the nearby town of Dhunche.

But her ordeal wasn't over, as McLeod was then forced to walk seven hours on a badly damaged road to an area where she could take a bus to the capital city of Kathmandu.

"The road was covered in debris and blocks where the mountain had fallen," she said. "We passed several villages that were totally destroyed by the earthquake ... it was a really devastating experience."

After making it to Kathmandu, McLeod boarded a military flight to New Delhi, organized by the Canadian Armed Forces.

She said there were about 20 Canadians on the flight, three of whom she befriended and decided to remain with in India.

"We're actually all staying in Delhi at the same place now, the four of us Canadian refugees," she said with a laugh.

"Having people to talk to about this is really nice. They understand. Because here in Delhi it's like nothing ever happened, the same madness of Delhi is occurring and it's nice to have people who are aware of what has gone on."

McLeod said the group was planning on volunteering at the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi in the coming days, to help pack boxes of supplies to be delivered across the country.

She said she's not sure how long she will remain in India, adding that she plans on returning to Nepal at some point to help those who helped her.

"I'm in emotional shock and still dealing with the trauma of the whole situation," she said.

"Being a part of a global tragedy like that, seeing the devastation, mostly for me it's about realizing what it's going to take to rebuild Nepal."

Meanwhile, the family of a Canadian married couple said Saturday that the pair had died in the same region McLeod escaped from.

Bruce and Kathy Macmillan, of St. Albert, Alta., were trekking in the village of Chyamki in the Langtang region when the earthquake hit.

Louise Bentley, Bruce Macmillan's sister, said the Nepalese government has not yet officially confirmed their deaths, which she says the family doesn't expect to happen for some time.

But Bentley said the family has been in communication with someone who was with the couple in the area at the time of the earthquake, and that they confirmed the couple had been killed.

Nepal police say more than 7,000 people are now confirmed dead, and the number of those injured by the earthquake has climbed past 14,000.

Sadly, officials expect those numbers to continue rising as reports come in from remote areas and rescue workers dig out more bodies from under the rubble.