University of Minnesota students and faculty members on a semester-long study abroad trip were safely evacuated from Nepal Saturday evening after a massive earthquake devastated the country on April 25.
Nine students and three faculty members were in the South Asian country when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck. Recent reports estimate that the earthquake has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people. No members of the University group were injured.
“It was a strong tremor where we were, and [we were] just kind of unsettled because the earth [was] moving,” said Dean Current, a University research associate and one of the program’s leaders.
Stacey Tsantir, the University’s director of International Health, Safety and Compliance, said some of the group’s students arrived in Minnesota Sunday.
The program was scheduled to finish on Monday. Current said the group was able to finish its work, which included research on wildlife, conservation practices and natural resources.
During its time abroad, the group worked with local wildlife technicians, many of whom lost family members or homes during the earthquake, Current said.
“[Some group members] are organizing a relief effort for those villagers,” he said, “because they have a personal connection now.”
The group stayed near the Chitwan National Park about 95 miles away from Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, which was one of the cities that was hit hardest by the earthquake. Current said the group noticed more destruction as it got closer to the city.
Just hours after the earthquake struck, Tsantir said University officials were aware of the group’s condition and knew that it was safe.
The University sent three security professionals to drive the group to an airport in Kathmandu on Saturday, Tsantir said.
The University requires students and faculty members to sign up for an insurance plan before studying abroad, Tsantir said. The plan provides natural disaster assistance and offers evacuation options.