Airport chaos in Nepal delays Spain’s evacuation efforts

Foreign Minister promises all Spaniards in the quake-stricken country will be repatriated

Miguel González
Rescuers at the foot of Mt. Everest help find mountain climbers.
Rescuers at the foot of Mt. Everest help find mountain climbers.A. Afif (AP)

Chaos at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport on Monday delayed Spain’s efforts to begin evacuating its citizens who remain stranded in Nepal following Saturday’s deadly earthquake.

An Airbus 310 that brought Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo to neighboring India for an official visit has not been able to fly out of New Delhi to collect them because it has not received authorization by Nepalese officials to land at Tribhuvan, officials said.

Emergency contacts

The Foreign Ministry has set up special hotlines and email addresses for those affected or have loved ones who have been affected by the earthquake. Tels. (91)1141293000 and (91)9810174160. The emails are emb.nuevadelhi@maec.es and unidaddecrisis@maec.es.

A British aircraft was also reportedly unable to land at Kathmandu because another plane was parked on the airport’s only runway.

Thousands of people have converged at Tribhuvan in a desperate effort to leave the quake-devastated country where the death toll now stands at 3,726 and is expected to rise.

The Spanish government had wanted to begin evacuating about 200 Spaniards who have said they wanted to leave Nepal.

“I am not leaving here until all the Spaniards who want to leave the country can do so,” said Margallo, who is on a previously planned official trip to India.

Later, the foreign minister said that if he did have to return to Madrid before then – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is scheduled to visit the Spanish capital on Friday – he would do so on a commercial airliner and leave the Airbus 310 so that it could continue its evacuation mission.

Margallo said he would try to ask Indian authorities, who are also coordinating rescue and aid efforts, for a landing slot reserved for the country’s air force.

Spain has prepared about 30 tons of humanitarian aid to send to Nepal

The Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID) has also prepared about 30 tons of humanitarian aid to send to Nepal.

The Foreign Ministry said that it had located 349 Spaniards in Nepal but was still looking for an additional 118, whose whereabouts are unaccounted for.

Spain’s Embassy in New Delhi – the country has no diplomatic representation in Nepal – has a registry of Spaniards living in the neighboring nation. But embassy officials said there could be more Spanish nationals who were in Nepal as tourists when the earthquake struck and did not bother to register with them.

There are so far no reports of any Spaniards among the victims or injured.

Many Spaniards spent the night at the local offices of a Spanish firm

On Sunday, a team made up of Spain’s consul general in New Delhi, Laura García Alfaya; Interior Ministry attaché Ramón Gómez Nieto; and a police rescue expert departed for Kathmandu to coordinate search and evacuation efforts for Spaniards trapped in Nepal.

In Kathmandu, about 63 Spaniards spent the night at the local offices of the Spanish construction company San José, which is building a new airport terminal. Another 40 stayed at a hotel.

Diplomatic officials said the problem remained in locating Spaniards who are far away from the capital, many of them thought to be in the remote Himalayas. Destroyed roads and poor communications have hampered efforts to reach people trapped in outlying regions.

The Foreign Ministry has said it was up to Nepalese officials to help local people because it lacked the resources to do so.

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