Aluminaid Team Singapore, which gave up its mission to scale Mount Everest following the Nepal earthquake, landed safely at Changi Airport on Monday night (May 4).
The climbers, Ismail Latiff, Zulkifli Latiff, and Nur Yusrina Yaakob, came back to Singapore after spending two months at Mount Everest. They were evacuated from Everest base camp (EBC) on Friday to Kathmandu Airport, after they abandoned their climb on Apr 29.
The trio’s return was met with applause and tearful embraces.
Ms Yusrina, 28, recounted the moment when she witnessed the first earthquake in her life.
“When the earthquake happened, we definitely felt it – the shaking and everything – but thankfully we were in one of the safest spots of the base camp, we were spared. We just tried to react to the situation, and we got into our tents.”
Her 50-year-old mother, Ms Rosnani Ismail said tearfully: “I was so worried when I heard of the news. I didn’t know what to think. I just talked to my husband. He didn’t say a word, he was just so quiet. We were thinking about our daughter’s safety.”
The team had embarked on the mission to mark Singapore’s Golden Jubilee, and had been planning the feat since 2010.
Aluminaid’s team captain Muhammad Hilwan Mohamed Idrus, who was unable to join them on the trip, told reporters: “The team left Singapore on Mar 25, and their expedition began in rotation – one team would climb and come back to rest for a few days while another team goes up. The teams finished their first rotation and was supposed to go for the second one on Apr 25. But the guide just decided shift it back by one day – a lucky thing to do. If not, they would have met the avalanche.”
That was not the only close shave for the team. “The earthquake hit the front part of EBC. The EBC is pretty huge, and the team’s base camp site is located at the back of the EBC. Their camp site was unscathed – they were not injured in any way. Just about 100m from the camp site, other tents were flattened. You can imagine how close we are,” Mr Hilwan said.
As they were unable to proceed up Everest, the team members looked to contributing to the search and rescue efforts.
“After the avalanche, they were doing a lot of monitoring. They also wanted to help with the search and rescue, but the Nepali operators there did not allow them due to safety issues,” the captain added. “The team was quite shaken and even one of their mountain guide’s uncle was caught in the avalanche and passed away. Their guides were very worried about their families back in Kamanthu, and thank goodness we had out satellite phones, which were passed around to the guides to contact their families.”
Another team member, Seumas Yeo, returned to Singapore last Wednesday as he suffered from an abscess a week before the earthquake. He was recovering in the hotel post-operation when the quake struck Nepal.
Describing the experience as “scary”, Mr Yeo said: “The whole building shook and I felt like the roof was going to fall on me. I walked down the street and it was chaotic, people were closing and running out of shops. I saw a collapsed building and people were pulling out bodies from it.”
He added that many people were huddling under trees for cover, shouting: “Shiva, Shiva!” or chanting Buddhist prayers.
Mr Hilwan said that the team will be holding a press conference next Monday (May 11).