A rescue mission has been launched to get a stranded Kempston fire chief and his wife home safely from earthquake stricken Nepal.
Kempston community fire station crew commander Clive Wilkinson and his wife Heather were caught up in the disaster during a month-long trip to the country.
The firefighter, who has been sponsoring a girl from poverty hit Nepal for the last 10 years, got in touch with his sister Karen Wilkinson-Bell here in the UK shortly after the devastating earthquake had struck.
The 30 second conversation was to let the couple’s loved ones know that they were alive.
Sister Karen Wilkinson-Bell said: “We were so relieved to here he was alive and that Heather was OK.”
However, fears grew after no word was heard for several days afterwards but the worried family received a brief voicemail on Tuesday afternoon from Clive, who lives in Shefford.
Niece Eve Wilkinson-Bell said: “They have said they are safe and that is all.
“We were so worried about them especially because we had heard about avalanches and after-shocks.”
Now Clive’s sister Karen is busy working with British Embassy in a bid to get a helicopter to rescue the couple.
“They are in a remote town in Langtang Valley,” said Eve.
It is believed that Clive and Heather, who spent two weeks in Kathmandu at the start of their trip where they met the girl they have been sponsoring, were trekking through the Langtang Valley at the time of the earthquake.
Their food and water supplies are now dwindling and the couple are thought to be sleeping out in the open with fellow trekkers.
It is understood that they are with two other Britons, some French and Australian tourists and, while rescue missions have been sent by their own countries to retrieve them, Karen said the UK response has been painfully slow.
“The Foreign Office seem to be dragging their feet,” she said.
“I have had several emails, they are quite frankly hopeless. They have been asking me for the same information several times.
“We are waiting to hear whether and when they will send a helicopter.”
The trekking party are currently sharing a satellite phone to keep in touch with loved ones.
Karen said: “Clive is a pretty resilient chap and I know he will be keen to make sure everyone around him is OK.”
She is sure that following his safe return home he will want to help with the aid effort and fundraising to help those affected.
Eve said: “Clive went to Nepal about 10 years ago and was really touched by the people there so he decided to sponsor a girl.
“She is now 19 and is going to university, but now they don’t know if she is alright.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake killed more than 5,000 people but it is feared that the death toll could soar to 10,000.