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WE'RE ALIVE; FAMILIES' RELIEF AS LOVED ONES FOUND SAFE; Relatives rejoice as missing trekkers get in touch after earthquake; Agony continues for many as death toll rises in disaster zone.

Byline: BLANAID MURPHY and PADDY CLANCY

GRATEFUL families were last night breathing a huge sigh of relief after they were able to contact loved ones in quake-hit Nepal.

The death toll in the devastated region of Kathmandu and surrounding areas has now reached more than 4,000 and thousands more are injured.

The families of at least three Irish holidaymakers and trekkers were last night praying their relatives are safe while others were celebrating after getting good news.

The delighted sister of Sinead McKenna, from Co Monaghan, told of her joy after her sibling finally got in touch.

Siobhan said her 31-year-old sister was trekking with Canadian boyfriend Bert Berry but both were safe.

She added: "Minor injuries and no food since quake but healthy. Sinead said the quake struck while they were on their way to the airport to go to Borneo.

"They have been at the airport since and said aid and organisation there is nonexistent.

"She said thousands are scared, injured and the place is in chaos.

"They are shook up and hungry but ngry but otherwise OK."

Siobhan, who was in Christchurch, New Zealand, when the devastating earthquake hit in 2011, said: "When I was caught up in the quake in New Zealand there was no communication so I know how terrifying it can be.

now to "We wanted desperately to let our families know we were safe and well."

Meanwhile, the mother of 22-year-old Darine Flanagan from Gort, Co Galway, tried to get in touch with her daughter on social media.

She told the Irish Mirror of her relief when adventure-loving Darine made a 30-second call home yesterday.

Mrs Flanagan said: "She eventually got a phone off someone and contacted us to let to w let us know she is OK, thanks be to God. We had a rough weekend.

"She was only on for half a minute and said, 'I'm ok, I'm alive, I'm safe, I'm well'.

"Just to hear her voice tell us she's OK was so good.

"That's the most important thing and I hope other families get the same as us."

A total of 90 people born in either Ireland or the UK are believed to be caught up in the aftermath of the powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake but most of thos have made contact with loved ones. However, as of last night at least three Irish people have not yet been in touch with their families since the catastrophe.

These include: Ciaran Sands, 55, from Dundalk, Co Louth Madelana Ryan, 48, from Dublin, and | Thomas Drumm, 55, from Monaghan. Ciaran's fearful sister yesterday appealed for help in finding her missing brother. Clodagh Sands wrote on Facebook: "My brother Ciaran Sands is missing in Nepal.

"He is trekking in the Annapurna region where communication is poor.

"Please share this so we can reach as many people as possible, someone in the region may have heard from him. We are very worried."

Elsewhere, a relieved relative of missing Jacqueline Bushe, 54, from Ballydevitt near Donegal, told how she had a "miracle" escape from a falling building. The relative, who asked not to be named, said: "She saw a cultural building standing one minute and the next minute it was gone. She had a miracle escape."

Members of the family feared for Ms Bushe when they didn't hear from her and got in touch with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

But the practising Buddhist was able to contact her family via social media on Sunday to report she was well.

The teacher told her loved ones she was preparing to move from Nepal back to Delhi when the quake struck. Emmet Gallagher, 33, and his wife Sylvia were in touch with loved ones via Facebook to A man injured Kathmandu airport confirm their safety. He wrote: "We are fine. Power is only back now. Thanks for all the good wishes."

Irishwoman Cliodhna Cork, 21, from Dublin, has also been found safe and well, according to a friend.

There's also a race against time to rescue many adventurers stranded on Mount Everest after the earthquake and aftershocks triggered avalanches.

Climber Paul Devaney from Killoe in Co Longford was yesterday still stranded on a base camp while rescue operations were put in place.

His brother Colm said Paul phoned immediately after the quake hit and gave this description of the avalanche that killed 10 people. Colm added: "He rang home just to let everyone know he was OK. And that there had been an earthquake.

"He was outside his tent when it occurred and recorded it on his iPad.

"He described looking up and seeing a wall of snow hurtling down from above.

"It was at that point he was grabbed from behind and pulled into a tent."

The quake, with tremors felt in Pakistan and Bangladesh, was the strongest in Nepal since one in 1934 which killed around 12,000 people.

Last night anger was growing at the slow pace of recovery as Nepalis were forced to spend a third night in the open.

Government officials were in disarray and aid workers were struggling to move supplies out of Kathmandu's airport.

Junior Minister Sean Sherlock pledged a [euro]1million emergency response fund for the disaster zone.

He said: "It will allow us to release stocks of vital aids such as life-saving support and basic medical supplies such as food and shelter and water and medicines.

"We anticipate that as soon as possible we will get those airlifted into the area itself. I want to tell people we are working assiduously through our very experienced emergency consular team.

"I want to assure anybody who has any concerns at this stage about loved ones who are in that region that the Department of Foreign Affairs through New Delhi and our own head office in Dublin are doing everything we can."

Trocaire has also committed an initial [euro]100,000 to the Nepal emergency.

Anyone who is concerned about Irish family or friends in the region can contact the department overnight on 01 478 0822 or from 9am direct to the consular response team on 01 418 0200.

news@irishmirror.ie

4,000 Death toll in Kathmandu and surrounding areas after earthquake

CAPTION(S):

EVACUATED A man carries an injured child to Kathmandu airport yesterday

WRECKAGE The Mount Everest south base camp

RESCUE Man is pulled out alive after two days in rubble

UTTER DEVASTATION Rescue staff assess damage on outskirts of Kathmandu yesterday

SAFE AND WELL Trekker Darine Flanagan from Co Galway

COUPLE'S CLOSE CALL Sylvia and Emmet Gallagher

HUNGRY BUT UNHURT Sinead McKenna from Co Monaghan
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Apr 28, 2015
Words:1102
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