More than 100 British travellers stranded in isolated parts of Nepal when the coronavirus outbreak struck have been rescued by the Gurkhas.
Soldiers from the British Gurkhas Nepal network, based in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Dharan, tackled river crossings and landslides as well as navigating treacherous roads to rescue people, the Foreign Office (FCO) said.
The soldiers, along with UK embassy staff and drivers, travelled more than 4,000 miles through the Himalayas to reach tourists stuck in mountainous towns, villages and national parks, as part of a three-week rescue mission.
The coronavirus pandemic has severely reduced transport routes in Nepal, the Foreign Office said, leaving tourists stranded in remote places.
In total 109 British people, along with 28 foreign nationals, were helped so they could reach charter flights to get home amidst strict lockdown measures.
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Sergeant Prakash Gurung, of 29 Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, was among those who helped in the rescue effort, navigating treacherous roads to rescue a British solo traveller from Manang in north-west Nepal, before driving nine and a half hours back to Kathmandu to catch a UK charter flight.
“Helping people in dire situations gives me a sense of satisfaction,” said Sgt Gurung. “The gratitude people expressed in messages has encouraged me to do more of this sort of work.”
British ambassador to Nepal Nicola Pollitt said: “Getting British nationals home in such an unprecedented time is a huge challenge around the world, but in a country like Nepal, with such extreme conditions, it would have been impossible to get everyone back without the close collaboration of the embassy and British Gurkhas Nepal.
“We have been able to reunite more than 700 British travellers with their families in the UK, and that would not have been possible without the tireless work of our embassy and Gurkha team.”
Lt Col Peter Wettenhall, Deputy Commander of the British Gurkhas Nepal, added: “It is both fitting and in keeping with the role of the armed forces that when called on for assistance that we do our very best to support those in need.
“We are delighted that we were able to assist the British Embassy, British nationals and our soldiers and families in Nepal through this trying time.”