A RELIEVED trekker from Rustington who survived the deadly earthquake in Nepal has told of her guilt at leaving the country.
Zara Cochrane, of Sea Lane, was one of 120 British nationals to be flown back to the UK on last week after being left stranded in the devastated country for four days.
The 25-year-old, who had been on a trekking holiday when the magnitude 7.9 quake rocked Nepal last month, killing more than 7,000 people, has admitted she hated leaving behind the refugees who had been made homeless by the disaster.
Speaking exclusively to the Gazette hours after landing at Stansted Airport, the former Angmering School student, said: “I feel quite guilty about leaving to come to my home knowing that there’s a lot of people in Nepal left without one. But I was relieved.”
The 25-year-old had been on a two-month adventure in Asia and was meant to be climbing Mount Everest at the time of the quake.
However, she was delayed from tackling the trek when thieves stole her passport in Cambodia just days before.
“To see the number of people in need out there and to not be able to help is really frustrating.”Zara Cochrane
“I think having my passport stolen, potentially, saved my life,” she added.
Zara had been with her boyfriend, Lawrence Fifield, 31, of Southbourne, near Chichester, and friend Jonathan Burningham, 30, of Selsey, when the disaster unfurled last Saturday.
The trio were forced to flee to a refugee camp packed with more than 10,000 frightened Nepalese nationals.
Zara said her team was shocked by the hospitality of the refugees – and by the basic living conditions.
“The hospitality was incredible. These were people with nothing still offering us food and water, all for free.
“They brought us into their tents when it rained. It was really touching.”
However, Zara said there was a palpable feeling among locals that the Nepalese government was not doing enough to tend for survivors.
“There were a lot of armed guards standing around the rubble but they didn’t seem to be doing anything. It seemed they were just there for the media.
“The refugee camp on Sunday was struggling for water. There were large queues waiting for water.
“(The government) wasn’t organised enough to get all the food out.”
At one point, Zara and her friends began helping with the relief effort, handing out bottles of water to those in need.
She is now determined to support those victims of the quake, who had been so kind in her hour of need.
She will be completing a fundraising trek up Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, later this month, with a number of friends and fellow survivors.
“I am quite a compassionate and charitable person,” she added. “It was just something I had to do.
“To see the number of people in need out there and to not be able to help is really frustrating.”
It’s not the first time Zara has tackled a trek for charity.
In September 2013 she completed the Inca Trail, in the Andes mountain range, raising £4,000 for cancer charity Marie Curie.
She is aiming to now raise as much as she can for Unicef UK which is helping the relief effort in Nepal.
Zara has not yet set an exact date for the challenge, but pledged to complete it by the end of this month. To sponsor her, see www.justgiving.com/Zara-Cochrane2