Latter-day Saints Escape Harm in Quake-Weary Nepal

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 5 May 2015

A street in the old section of Nepal prior to the April 2015 earthquake.

Article Highlights

  • Latter-day Saints visiting Nepal share their experience of the quake and thank the Nepalese people.
  • The one branch in Nepal was meeting for Sabbath services when the quake struck.
  • No members were harmed, but the Church is anxious to assist the Nepalese people.

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Latter-day Saints who were traveling in Nepal when a massive quake struck on April 25 are expressing thanks for the generosity and resourcefulness of the Nepalese people—and for the prayers of fellow ward members and friends back home.

“We were fortunate and blessed to get out of the country when we did,” said Tom Heath, a Sandy, Utah, member who was traveling in the South Asian nation with his wife, Paula, and several other members.

After enduring two days of aftershocks and sleepless nights in Nepal, the Heaths and the others in their group returned safely to their homes in the United States.

The 7.8-magnitude quake hit near the capital of Kathmandu, causing massive destruction and claiming more than 5,000 lives as of April 30. No Church members were harmed.

The Church is small in Nepal. There is one branch with fewer than 100 active members. When the quake struck, most members were together for Sabbath services in a rented meetinghouse in Kathmandu, said Jeff Foy, the Church’s emergency response manager.

Elder and Sister Valentine, who were serving as humanitarian missionaries in Nepal, stand outside of their apartment prior to the earthquake on April 25. Their apartment is now uninhabitable and they have been evacuated.

Location of the 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015.

The Sabbath in Nepal is observed on Saturday in accordance with local tradition.

One missionary couple, Elder and Sister Valentine, was serving in Nepal. They were evacuated from the country after their apartment was damaged. The LDS meetinghouse also suffered minor damage.

The Church is anxious to assist the Nepalese people and is working closely with their international relief partners, said Brother Foy. Church leaders in Salt Lake City and the Asia Area Presidency, he added, “are taking a look at future needs.”

Brother Heath returned home from his travels with a deep respect and regard for the Nepalese people. He and his group were visiting a historic site near the capital when the earth began to shake.

“The quake was remarkably strong and remarkably long,” he said.

He and dozens of others dashed to the center of the town square that was clear of the rocking buildings. A series of aftershocks hit while they queued together. They later weaved about the destruction and rubble and located their tour bus.

Their hotel had been seriously damaged. They were initially prohibited from entering the building to gather their luggage and would spend the night sleeping outside on mattresses pulled from the hotel.

“During the night there were several aftershocks,” said Brother Heath. “It was very unsettling.”

Still, the resourceful hotel staff and tour workers did all they could to make their guests comfortable.

Meanwhile, disruptions at the nearby international airport delayed their Air India flight out of the country for a day. “We all cheered when we finally boarded our plane and they shut the door,” he said.

Brother Heath said the Nepalese people in the capital “were calm and helpful” in the days following the disaster. Still, they were growing increasingly desperate with shortages of water and other necessities.

Brother Heath said on April 29 his phone had not stopped ringing since he arrived in Utah four days after the temblor. He’s especially thankful for his fellow members in the Willow Creek 4th Ward, Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake.

“The ward was fasting on our behalf, and who can doubt the power of their prayers?”