Nepal earthquake affects hundreds of Canadians

Saturday's earthquake in Nepal caught hundreds of Canadians in mountain avalanches and in the midst of crumbling cities.

Survivors recount tales of avalanches, crumbling buildings, chaotic aftermath

Nepal earthquake survivors

8 years ago
Duration 1:24
Survivors of the massive earthquake describe their experiences

The earthquake in Nepal killed and injured thousands of people and caused destruction from the capital Kathmandu to small villages to Mount Everest.

There are 462 Canadians registered in Nepal, but registration is voluntary, so the number of people in the country is almost certainly higher.

Here are stories from some of the hundreds of Canadians who have been caught in the chaos.

Joan and Kelsey Griffith-Parker, Winnipeg

Joan and Kelsey Griffith-Parker had been on Mount Everest just two days before the quake triggered an avalanche.

"I checked the news at 8 a.m. It wasn't until about three or four hours later that we got a call they were all right," said family member Lauren Griffith-Parker in Winnipeg. "We were definitely really scared and praying a lot."

Griffith-Parker said this was her sister Kelsey's first attempt at the climb, while her mom Joan did it almost 30 years ago.

Griffith-Parker got both an email and a call this weekend from her sister and mother reassuring her they made their descent two days before the earthquake and are safe.

Al Hancock, Edmonton

Al Hancock, a high-altitude climber from Edmonton, left a voicemail with his spokesperson hours after an avalanche buried his camp following the Nepal earthquake. (
Al Hancock was caught in an avalanche while attempting to climb Annapurna, the tenth highest peak in the world.

"You probably heard the news, we had a major, major earthquake today," Hancock can be heard saying on a voicemail message sent hours after his team was buried by snow.

Hancock said the avalanche buried him and his climbing team in their tents as they slept, recovering from an unsuccessful attempt on the summit hours earlier.

"We had to use knives to cut our way out," he said.

Faye Kennedy, Ottawa

Faye Kennedy was trekking in Nepal when the earthquake hit. (Facebook)
Faye Kennedy, 32, was in the midst of a nine-day hike in Langtang National Park, travelling without a tent because she was staying in teahouses, her family said.

Her family told CBC News Monday that Kennedy had been in touch via email and said she was "incredibly lucky to be OK," though "very injured" and has been airlifted to Kathmandu. 

Kennedy, who works in the public service, was travelling with two friends, her family said. 

Before she called, her sister, Lisa Kennedy, said family members were scouring social media, contacting those in Nepal directly for information, because there had been little official information out of Langtang National Park compared to the Everest base camp.

"From what we're seeing, it's chaos," she said then.

Emilie-Anne Leroux, Montreal

Leroux, 28, says she was in a taxi on the way to the airport to return to Canada to be with her father who is having heart surgery when the quake hit.

It felt like the car "had four flat tires at different moments," Leroux said Sunday, adding she thought it was car trouble until the driver stopped and let her out.

The ground was shaking so much that everyone was holding onto handrails at the side of the street "because we thought we could fall if we didn't hang on," she said.

Canadian aid worker describes Nepal earthquake

8 years ago
Duration 6:41
Interview with Montrealer Emilie-Anne Leroux an intern with the International Organization for Migration

Aedan Magee, Vancouver

Michael Magee, chief of staff for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, awoke to a phone call early Saturday assuring him that his 20-year-old son Aedan was safe in a campsite outside Pokhara.

Aedan had been staying with a Nepalese family in Pokhara, near the quake's epicentre. But he recently left the city for a hike in the mountains with other students in his university program.

"We dodged a bullet," said Magee. "It's nerve-wracking. I feel terrible and heartsick for the tragedy and what it means. At the same time I'm relieved to have word immediately that my son is safe."

Sheri Meyerhoffer, Calgary

Sheri Meyerhoffer is a Calgary lawyer who has spent six years living in Nepal. (Facebook)
Scarce supplies and constant fear of more aftershocks plague survivors, Calgary lawyer Sheri Meyerhoffer says.

Meyerhoffer, part of an international pro-democracy organization, was upstairs when the magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked her home. She says she did a "duck and hold" by an inside wall and wasn't injured.

"I broke a nail," she said.

Meyerhoffer says the area has suffered dozens of aftershocks

"This is what keeps you on the edge, you just never know."

Mitchell Pineo, Berwick, N.S.

Mitchell Pineo (centre) and his friends were blessed in the streets of Kathmandu on a few days before the earthquake. (Facebook)
Peggy Melanson heard about the earthquake from her 23-year-old son Mitchell Pineo, who was in Kathmandu with four friends from Halifax.

"I got up and had a text, and then I turned on the news and went 'Oh my goodness,'" she said. "I'm so glad he texted me before I turned on the news."

Pineo, who was in Nepal for a music festival and hiking, told Melanson there are signs of the disaster everywhere.

"There's bodies around, buildings collapsing, they're rationing water, it's just mayhem. He described it as a war zone," she said.

Elia Saikaly, Ottawa

Elia Saikaly, a climber and filmmaker from Ottawa, was near the Mount Everest base camp when the earthquake struck.

"Before we knew it, there was this 200- to 300-foot tidal wave of snow heading directly towards us, so we dove into the mess tent, zipped it down and just dove onto the ground and started to pray," Saikaly told CBC News.

Saikaly said he briefly opened up the tent to film what was happening before a guide pulled him back and closed the tent again.

"All we could do was stay put and wait for the avalanche to subside. ... It felt like an eternity," he said.

When it stopped, Saikaly began looking for friends. One of them didn't survive.

"He was gone, just like that. ... It's a nightmare that you just want to wake up from."

Reena Vohra, Toronto

Reena Vohra was walking through a narrow alley in an ancient city of Bhaktapur when the earthquake struck.

The Toronto aid worker fled with a group of her World Vision colleagues to a nearby shop entrance, where they watched as the historic site crumbled around them.

"People were screaming and crying all around me," she said in an email. "I'm still incredibly shaken up. I've never experienced anything like this."

Elizabeth Weir, Saint John

The former New Brunswick NDP leader tweeted about feeling aftershocks outside Kathmandu and sleeping outside for two nights because of fears of another quake.

"Inconvenient for us but this is life-shattering for so many Nepalis," she wrote.

More on the earthquake in Nepal

With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press


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