10,000 tourists stuck in Nepal being evacuated

A Buddha Air ferry flight headed to Pokhara on Thursday afternoon over a completely empty air space over Nepal.

A meeting of the COVID-19 control committee headed by Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel on Wednesday and decided to also allow foreign embassies to gather their stranded nationals in Kathmandu and to fly them out.

The Germany Embassy has organised two Qatar Airways ferry flights from Doha to take its nationals out on Friday and Saturday. The French, British and Australian Embassies are also said to be planning flights out for their nationals.

Read also: Lockdown likely to be extended

There are an estimated 10,000 tourists who are stranded in Kathmandu and various parts of Nepal. They were on treks in the mountains when Nepal announced a lockdown and suspended all domestic and international flights on Tuesday. There were extra tourists in Nepal at this time because of the spring trekking season, and Visit Nepal Year 2020.

Nepal tourism Board and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal are coordinating the flights to evacuate the tourists.

There are said to be 120 foreign trekkers and climbers stuck in Lukla because they could not get down from the mountains before the lockdown, and flights were cancelled. There are said to be another 200 tourists on Everest Base Camp route. 

Some British and Australian tourists stuck in Nepal have formed Facebook groups to exchange notes about evacuation flights and to coordinate their movements. 

Tara Air as sent a flight to bring back French tourists, but there is no information on the others. Some trekkers have refused to be evacuated and said they preferred to stay on in Khumbu.

The French Embassy also chartered a Buddha Air plane on Thursday to bring back 60 tourists from Pokhara (main picture). Some of them were stranded in Jomsom after flights were stopped and were brought down from Jomsom by bus. There are said to be another 70 tourists still in Jomsom. There also said to be other European nationals, Korean and Brazilian tourists in Pokhara. 

The British and Australian embassies have also issued appeals on social media asking their nationals to provide contact information for a possible evacuation in the coming days. The US embassy in Kathmandu has also reached out to Americans in Nepal saying it is working on evacuation flights, and will notify them about when it will happen.

There an additional 28 Indian pilgrims who were on their way to Muktinath who have been stuck in Pokhara, and NTB is trying to send them by bus to India.