Photo above: Pepijn Trapman (far right), South and Central Asia Regional Manager for ICCO and 'Kerk in Actie'
'Saturday 25 April 2015 began as a day of celebration in Kathmandu. We were sitting in a hotel, dressed in orange and celebrating King’s Day with the city’s Dutch community. My Kyrgyz wife Zarina had taken our two-year-old daughter Naomi to the toilet. I was sitting by the swimming pool with our four-year-old son Daniel. Suddenly, there was an awful noise, like a plane crashing. Everything began to shake violently, the trees around us fell. I knew what it was straight away: an earthquake.'
'I pulled Daniel to the ground and covered him with my body. The water from the swimming pool flooded over us. The shocks were so strong that we were sliding all over. My heart was in my mouth: where were my wife and daughter? Fortunately, I saw them a few minutes later; they were unharmed.'
Aircraft on the way
An hour and a half later, we were outside our house. The wall in front of it had collapsed, the front door was warped completely out of shape. But otherwise it looked safe. We decided to spend the first night indoors sleeping on a mattress on the ground floor. We kept the front door open in case we needed to flee. Zarina and the children managed to sleep, despite the strong aftershocks every 20 minutes. I stayed wide awake, keeping watch so as to alert the children and Zarina, and praying to God. The second night, we slept in our friends’ garden, because all the aftershocks had made cracks in our walls.'
'At four in the morning, Kari Cuelenaere from the Dutch consulate in Kathmandu called. A military aircraft was on the way to repatriate injured Dutch nationals and those with children. Did we want seats? At first I said no, because Nepal is our home. What’s more, my job consists of helping those in need. Then I looked at Daniel, who was completely in shock, and I thought: we have to leave. I had to first get my family to safety, then come back and help as soon as possible.'
They looked after everyone
'Two hours later we were on our way to the airport. When we arrived, staff from the embassy in New Delhi and the consulate in Kathmandu were sorting out all the formalities. After hours of waiting, we could finally check in. The airport was chaos. We quickly went through customs and straight on to the aircraft. The military crew were waiting for us. They looked after everyone. They treated injuries, provided trauma support and gave us something to eat and drink. It was heart-warming. We finally landed safely at Eindhoven Airport on Wednesday 29 April.'
'Looking back on our evacuation, I am incredibly grateful to everyone who helped us, especially consular staff. ‘We’ll get your home’ was their promise, and they stuck to it. They didn’t guarantee it would happen, but they worked incredibly hard to make it possible. It’s wonderful that the Netherlands works so professionally to help Dutch nationals in need.'
Dutch nationals can count on emergency assistance
On 25 April 2015 Nepal was hit by an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale. More than 8,000 people were killed and almost 15,000 were injured. In the weeks following the earthquake the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – together with the Ministry of Defence and the travel insurers’ emergency support centre – repatriated more than 250 Dutch nationals. This was done in consultation with the Dutch consulate in Nepal and the embassy in India.
Travelling abroad sometimes involves risks. If something goes wrong and Dutch nationals need assistance, they can count on consular support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Netherlands has around 140 diplomatic missions around the world, including embassies and consulates. These missions protect the interests of Dutch nationals abroad. Each year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers thousands of Dutch nationals consular assistance. Whether it involves a disaster or other emergency, missing person, death or arrest, the ministry is ready to help Dutch nationals and provide advice.