Corey Ascolani, Eric Jean, and Della Hoffman were sitting in a teahouse in Bamboo — a small alpine village on the side of a mountain next to the Langtang River in northern Nepal — when they first heard the earthquake.
“The rocks sounded like cannon fire,” said Jean, 32, to Time, which exclusively covered the story of how he, Hoffman, and Ascolani survived after being stranded in the mountains following the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Nepal last Saturday.
As of now, the death toll has exceeded 6,000 with over 14,000 injured, according to The Guardian.
Despite the disastrous nature of the event, the three travellers survived for six days before a helicopter flew them to safety.
The Americans had travelled to Nepal for leisure and to hike the famous Himalayas, but soon they found themselves imprisoned and forced to survive in a remote area for six days.
By the time the earth stopped shaking, one villager was dead, a tour guide was bleeding from his head, and the teahouse Jean, Hoffman, and Ascolani had been in moments earlier was destroyed.
The Americans, villagers, and various other tourists (the area is a popular destination for hikers) soon realised that their route down the mountain along the river had been blocked by large piles of jagged boulders.
Ascolani, Jean, and Hoffman all knew that the area was fairly remote and that they had little food. Setting their fears aside, the three found shelter while more and more wayward travellers stumbled upon the camp and brought news of destruction from around the country.
One of the hikers happened to have a satellite handset which the group was able to use to get word out to their loved ones and receive news from the outside world.
“We didn’t understand the gravity of what happened until we received those first few messages,” said Jean to Time
That’s how the group learned of the devastation brought about by the earthquake. In addition to the massive death toll, large areas are without clean water or medical care six days later and that thousands are living outdoors for fear of more collapsing buildings, the Guardian also reported.
For the next few days Ascolani, Jean, and Hoffman did their best to survive. They paid the villagers for their food and blankets and collected buckets of water from the river that they made sure to boil before drinking for safety reasons.
Near their shelter, the group constructed a giant “H” to attract the attention of the helicopters flying overhead searching for survivors. When nobody initially came, they built two more.
But on Tuesday, morning their prayers seemed to be answered as a helicopter whirled down to the camp.
“We had seen a few helicopters high above,” Jean said to Time. “But when we saw the helicopter coming in low, the tears started streaming down our faces.”
But it wasn’t meant to be. The helicopter was on a mission to rescue five Japanese citizens and their tour guide who had been stranded among the group. After scooping them up, away it went.
The next day the Americans suffered through the same series of events, except with a helicopter committed to saving the Israelis stranded among them. It soon departed, leaving a remaining 27 survivors behind.
Finally, on Thursday morning at about 10:30 am, a US Special Forces helicopter dropped down onto the campsite to come to the rescue of Ascolani, Hoffman, and Jean. After another four trips, all 27 survivors had been rescued.
Back in the US embassy in Kathmandu on Thursday, Ascolani, Jean, and Hoffman each opened their Facebook pages to find an infinite number of notifications inquiring about their safety and offering up prayers.
“There are so many people we are thankful for, the people at home, the people here, the people at camp who banded together,” Jean said to Time. “This could have been far worse.”
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