BHUBANESWAR: As strong aftershocks in Nepal sent fresh tremors a day after the devastating earthquake, the Under-14 Girls Football Team, comprising five members from Odisha, returned to India on Sunday afternoon, ending two days of anxiety for their family members.
The 23-member team was originally scheduled to return on Saturday evening but the earthquake, which left a trail of destruction in the kingdom nation, brought down the air services.
On Sunday morning, the Indian contingent was on board the Indian Air Force aircraft for emergency evacuation when an aftershock recording 6.9 on the Richter Scale shook Nepal and the Air Traffic Control (ATC) of Kathmandu Airport closed down.
With the airport shut down for a brief period, the return journey was delayed further. Finally, the whole contingent reached New Delhi at 4.55 pm and was taken to a hotel.
Shradhanjali Samantray, team’s assistant coach who was among the five from the State, recalled the nightmarish experience back in Nepal and expressed gratitude to all the people who prayed for their well-being.
“We all are alive by the grace of God and because of the prayer of our family members and well-wishers. We would like to thank everyone,” she said over phone from New Delhi.
The team was out in Dasarth Stadium on Saturday morning when the whole ground started to shake, she said. “When the players realised that it was earthquake, they started to run here and there but we all were safe. Soon we were taken back to the hotel,” Shradhanjali said.
On their way back to the hotel, she said, the enormity of the situation dawned upon the entire team as it saw the devastation around Kathmandu. Although a part of the hotel had suffered damage, it was safe and the team stayed there overnight and waited for the evacuation. However, an aftershock recording delayed their return.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that the Government will evacuate the football team on priority basis. All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Praful Patel also spoke to the Indian Embassy in Nepal and tweeted their well-being.
The AIFF also was quick to tweet the developments during the day. “The constant tremors sent panic waves among the squad. The Indian eves were slated to play Iran on Saturday but the match was cancelled due to the earthquake which jolted Dasarath Stadium. The Indian contingent was warming up in the Dasarath Stadium when the calamity struck,” a federation spokesperson said.
The four Odia players are scheduled to return to Bhubaneswar on Monday morning but Shradhanjali will come back a couple of days later.