Earthquake in Nepal: How Climbers and Backpackers Can Prepare Their Travel Safety Net

After a devastating earthquake followed by frightening aftershocks in the south Asian country of Nepal, many travellers have found themselves unexpectedly stranded, injured, or even worse.  For those who have survived, widespread damage means that resources to help them are in short supply.

In the event of natural disasters like this, we are often asked what travellers can do to prepare and keep themselves safe. While, of course, there’s no way to avert an earthquake—and often no way to see it coming—there are numerous steps you can take that will help you stay safe or get access to the care you need.

 

How can travel medical insurance help in the event of a disaster abroad?

This team attempted to be the first Canadians to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1994, but one member's lungs filled with fluid less than 500 feet from the top. Ingle Insurance was on hand to help with the evacuation.
In 1994, this team attempted to be the first Canadians to reach the summit of Mt. Everest without oxygen, but one member’s lungs filled with fluid less than 500 feet from the top. Luckily, Ingle Insurance was on hand to help with the evacuation.

We’ve written many times about the reasons why travel insurance is a necessity for any trip. But what will travel insurance actually do for you in the event that you’re in an area affected by a natural disaster?

Emergency medical coverage

This type of insurance will cover any emergency medical expenses that you incurred to treat injuries sustained in a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

A note for climbers and hikers: This coverage will typically include your expenses, unless you are participating in a professional sport, in which case you may not be covered. Some plans also exclude expenses related to rock climbing or mountaineering, or any activity exceeding specific elevations. If you’ve got climbing on your agenda, make sure you check the fine print of your insurance plan before you go.

Remote evacuation benefit

Some plans also feature a specific benefit for remote evacuation from a mountainous area (when medically necessary) up to a specified amount. This is a useful benefit to have in your pocket if you’re planning to visit mountainous areas on your trip, as it can be difficult for ground transport to reach you on rugged terrain.

Accidental death and dismemberment

Though it’s not the most pleasant subject to consider, coverage for accidental death or dismemberment can lend crucial support to a traveller or their family in the event that they lose a limb while abroad—or in the event of their death. If a natural disaster causes death or dismemberment, this type of coverage will typically issue a lump sum payment to the insured person or their beneficiary.

 

What can travellers expect from their emergency assistance provider?

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When these climbers ran into trouble, Ingle arranged local assistance in getting the team down the mountain and medical treatment for the ill climber in Kathmandu.

If you’re in a dangerous situation abroad, emergency assistance benefits can make all the difference in getting you home safely. But what does an emergency assistance provider actually do for you?

A provider like Intrepid 24/7, Ingle’s emergency assistance company, can do the following in the event of an emergency abroad:

  • Connect you with medical providers at your location
  • Liaise with hospital staff, family members, and your country’s consulate to ensure you receive the appropriate care
  • Offer multilingual communication in the event there is a language barrier
  • Coordinate your air evacuation to an appropriate facility in the event that you find yourself somewhere that is not equipped to deal with your medical emergency
  • Repatriate you to your home country for continuing care once your condition has stabilized

Without insurance, evacuation by helicopter can be complicated to arrange, can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and can often be the difference between life and death. This a key benefit to have if you’re planning to head anywhere that’s far from any medical centres.

Want to know more about what emergency assistance companies can do? Find out how Intrepid 24/7 handled a bus crash in Bolivia.

Contact for Canadians in Nepal

Consulate of Canada
47 Lal Durbar Marg
Kathmandu
+977 (1) 444-1976
canadaconsul@mail.com.np

Contacts for Finding Loved Ones in Nepal

There are a few organizations that may be able to help you:

1) Emergency Watch and Response Centre
613-996-8885 or 1-800-387-3124
sos@international.gc.ca

2) Google Person Finder

3) International Red Cross Missing Person Search

Intrepid 24/7’s experts offer the following advice for travellers in a situation like the one currently unfolding in Nepal:

  • Beware of the likelihood of additional damage due to aftershocks. Stay away from unstable structures and make sure to follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • If your accommodations have sustained damage and appear unsafe, or if locals indicate that you should move, evacuate the premises immediately.
  • If you are injured, seek first aid as soon as is safely possible.
  • Contact your consular officials as soon as possible to report your status. They will be able to communicate and provide information to your loved ones.
  • Understand that communications are down for the most part, except for satellite phones.

What happens when you can’t get in contact with your emergency assistance team? In a disaster this devastating, the government may be able to help. To address the emergency that is currently unfolding in Nepal, the Canadian government has sent its elite DART (Disaster Assistance Response Team) personnel. When the team lands, it will provide food, shelter, water, and medical care for stranded travellers and locals alike.

 

How can travellers handle a transportation shutdown?

Amidst the aftershocks in Nepal, Kathmandu Airport has become overwhelmed by travellers looking to be evacuated, and many flights have been delayed or diverted to other airports. In a difficult situation, cancelled transport—be it flights, trains, boats, or public transport—can add to the sense of panic for those trying to get safely home.

So what can you do to manage this risk? There’s no way to restore a cancelled flight or reopen a closed train station. But you can smooth the process of getting your trip back on track with trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

What can this type of insurance do for you? When transport is cancelled because of a natural disaster, trip cancellation insurance can reimburse you for your prepaid, non-refundable travel costs. (Note that you’ll need to have purchased the plan prior to the disaster for your claim to be paid.) And in the event that a natural disaster cuts a trip short, trip interruption insurance will cover your unused travel costs and additional travel expenses.

In a world where cancelled flights and shut-down trains can happen without warning, trip cancellation and interruption insurance is a great way to get some extra peace of mind. While it won’t necessarily get you home any faster, it can be that extra support to smooth out a bumpy ride while you find your way home.

 

Have more questions about trip cancellation insurance? Find the answers here.

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