Prince visits Nepal's quake-hit families

By Gordon Rayner

Five virgins, symbolising purity and luck, give Britain's Prince Harry an official welcome. Photo / AP
Five virgins, symbolising purity and luck, give Britain's Prince Harry an official welcome. Photo / AP

Prince Harry brought much-needed cheer to Nepal's earthquake victims as he visited families still living in tents almost a year on from the disaster.

He was shown around a camp for homeless families in Kathmandu by 14-year-old Purushotam Suwal, who said the Prince was as famous in Nepal as David Beckham.

For families who will soon face their second monsoon season under canvas, the Prince's visit was a welcome distraction as he posed for pictures and said the "whole world" wanted to help.

More than 9000 people died in the earthquake last April, and the Prince saw how Britain is helping the survivors with a 22 million ($47 million) aid programme.

He was clearly moved by the plight of the 250 people from 60 families housed in tents provided by the Nepalese army and international organisations, on a scrubby piece of land where chickens scratched at the earth.

As he chatted to one family inside their tent he told them: "I'm sorry that you have to live in here ... but in some way you're lucky that you're all alive and no one lost their lives." Purushotam, who was chosen as the Prince's guide because he speaks excellent English, told him the families might have to wait another year for homes.

The Prince spent a day seeing how Nepal's rebuilding effort was progressing after around a million buildings were destroyed or damaged.

He began the day in the capital's Patan Durbar Square, a Unesco world heritage site, where he received a traditional VIP welcome from five young virgins, symbolising purity and luck.

Maiya Maharjan, 25, put a garland of orange marigolds around his neck while four teenagers gave him bouquets.

Prince Harry talks to people still living in tents. Photo / AP
Prince Harry talks to people still living in tents. Photo / AP

One of them, Alisha Awale, 18, said: "I've seen him before on television, I was really excited about meeting him and was wondering what he would be like.

"We freaked out when he was in front of us but it was a really happy moment. We welcome him with open hearts to Nepal."

Several temples and other buildings in the square were damaged or brought down by the earthquake and some are still held up by wooden props.

The Prince's first stop was the magnificent Patan Palace.

As he left to tour the rest of the sights in the square he was mobbed by hundreds of people including a group of local girls in school uniforms screaming his name as they tried to grab him and get selfies.

In the 600-year-old Golden Temple, one of Kathmandu's holiest sites, the Prince made a traditional offering of a lit candle to a statue of Buddha.

At a Red Cross distribution centre, part funded by 22 million from the Department for International Development, housewife Barbati Khathri, 39, told the Prince how she lost her home and feared for her children on the day the quake struck.

She had gone to the temple with her husband but her 21-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter were sitting exams. When she could not contact them, she feared they were dead, but they all survived.

The Prince told her: "If you didn't know, now you know the whole world wanted to help."

The Prince is on a five-day tour of Nepal, a country he has long wanted to visit because it is the homeland of the Gurkhas, men who serve in the British Army.

"It's nice to finally have the chance to come to Nepal and meet the families and the people and the place from which the Gurkhas come," he said. Telegraph Group Ltd

- Daily Telegraph UK

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