“I cannot describe the relief I felt when I received the text saying they were safe...”
These were the poignant words of a terrified mother whose son and his friends were feared missing after the Nepal earthquake disaster.
Freda Stalker and her relatives were one of two Fylde coast families who faced a terrible wait to find out if their loved ones were still alive following the tragedy.
More than 3,700 people are known to have died while a further 6,500 people have been injured in the quake, which happened 80km to the north west of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale.
Among them were Mrs Stalker’s 25-year-old son Sam, from Ribby Avenue, Kirkham, and Mike Russell, 42, from St Annes.
Both families have faced a heartbreaking wait for news since news of Saturday’s disaster broke.
We had been watching events unfold on the news and were sick with worry
But today, both spoke of their overwhelming relief after receiving news Mr Stalker and Mr Russell were confirmed safe.
Mr Stalker was on a trek in northern Kathmandu with his schoolfriend Jonathan Blott, from Preston, and their two girlfriends when tragedy struck.
It was only yesterday morning his mother received a text to say they are all safe.
But they are now waiting to be evacuated from the area – and Mrs Stalker, 55, says she will not rest until her son is home..
She added: “He said they’re safe and staying in the Langtang Valley. They have set up camp and they’re waiting for helicopters to rescue them. I cannot describe the relief I felt when we I received the text.
“We had been watching events unfold on the news and were sick with worry.
“To find out he was safe and well was such a relief.
“It’s a mother’s worst nightmare not knowing where your children are and what difficulties they might be having.
“There is still the worry of what happens now. He is waiting to be air-lifted to safety and we hope that food will be dropped in the area because everything is so scarce.
“I will only rest when he is home, safe and well.”
Meanwhile, Nigel Russell, Mr Russell’s older brother, said he had grave fears for his sibling’s safety after hearing nothing 36 hours after the incident, but said his family was given the news they had prayed for on Monday morning.
Mr Russell, speaking at the family home in Caryl Road, St Annes, added: “We are glad and just so relieved.
“Nigel was born and raised here but now lives in London.
“I would say Sunday night on the local news was when we began to worry, in particular when the first survivors were contacting their families. We wanted to give it 48 hours for him to get in touch.”
Mr Russell said his brother, who was named on an official Red Cross missing list, had contacted them telling the family he was safe after they received an email yesterday morning.
He added: “Mike was out in the sticks, one of the remote areas. Communications over there are dire. Information has been very sketchy and bad – there is a lack of infrastructure.”
News of Mr Russell’s disappearance was first revealed on Sunday by actress Catherine Russell, who plays Serena Campbell in BBC One drama series Holby City.
Following more than 1,800 re-tweets across social media appealing for information, she revealed her delight yesterday after he was found.
She said: “Good news! Mike has been found safe & sound. Thank U SO much 4 your RT’s. Hoping every1 else gets news of loved 1’s soon #NepalEarthquake”
Mr Stalker, meanwhile, has been abroad for the past two years after travelling to Mumbai, India, in June 2013, and was due to return home on June 3.
He last returned to the UK a year ago to renew his visa before heading back out to Aminabad, India, where he was working as an architect.
After completing a project two weeks ago, he embarked on a trip with a woman he’d met out there, who his mother knows as ‘Dewani’.
His mother, who works at nearby Kirkham Grammar School, said: “Sam and Dewani met Jonathan and his girlfriend in Kathmandu and started this trek together.
“We usually keep in touch via Skype and he keeps me up to date with where he is and what’s he up to, but he told me before they started the trip that it was going to be really bad signal.”
Freda, her husband Michael, also 55, and their other son Bob, learned about the disaster Sam had been involved in when Jonathan’s mother called them about the men’s whereabouts on Saturday.
She said: “Jon’s mum called asking if we knew where they were.
“Since then we have just been sitting here waiting to hear. It has been a waiting game so just to know they are OK is such a relief.
“They’re now trying to do all they can with the embassies to get them home safely. Until he’s back here I won’t stop worrying.
“He may be 25 but I’ll never stop worrying – that’s a mother’s job. My head is all over the place, I can’t rest until he’s back home.”
Freda is now hoping Sam will return home earlier than planned following the earthquake.
She added: “From what I’ve seen on the TV and on the internet, it looks like chaos out there.
“I would like to think after what’s happened that he’ll come home where it’s safe but knowing him he’ll want to make the most out of his last month.
“It’s the only time he’ll have with Dewani before they have to part ways as well and he won’t want to do that any earlier than he has to.
“But think he will be taking what’s happened in his stride and I’m sure he’ll be doing his best to look out for those around him.”
The devastating earthquake has left thousands of people dead and injured across Nepal, China and India.
More than 200 climbers were rescued from Mount Everest after the earthquake triggered avalanches, while huge camp sites have started in Kathmandu for those with no homes.
Thousands spent Sunday night outside while there are shortages of water, food and electricity.
Mr Russell was one of 90 Britons originally reported missing by the Foreign Office.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said several hundred people are thought to be in Nepal and some were certain to have been caught up in the earthquake.
He added: “Damage to communications infrastructure caused by the earthquakes is making it difficult to contact people who may have been trekking in remote areas so it may be some time before we, working with the tour companies, are able to identify who is in Nepal and to account for them.”