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Local couple in Nepal found safe

Karuna Gauchan held her infant daughter as she lit candles with Nirmal Tulachan for a vigil in Copley Square.ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Watching helplessly from afar, hundreds of Nepali residents of Boston gathered at a vigil in Copley Square Sunday night to honor the thousands killed in their homeland, while relatives of a Somerville couple missing on Mount Everest saw their anxiety turned to joy.

The couple, feared lost amid earthquake-triggered avalanches on Mount Everest, were found safe on Sunday night, said relatives who had spent two anguished days waiting for word.

Carol Pineda, 37, a pediatrician, and Michael MacDonald, 38, a lawyer, had been missing since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Saturday at around the same time they were expected to hike into Everest base camp, Pineda’s brother James said.


Details of their ordeal were unavailable, but word arrived late Sunday from the trekking company they had been with that they were accounted for.

“I don’t know any details but that they’re alive and safe,” said MacDonald’s mother, Marie, of Brockton, late Sunday night. “That’s good enough.”

Many at Sunday’s vigil, which brought about 1,000 people to Copley Square, were still frantically trying to learn the fate of loved ones. The vigil, organizers said, was a chance to help heal and an outlet for people powerless to help parents, siblings, and relatives on the the other side of the world.

“There’s nothing substantial that we can do from here right now,” said Pankaj Khadka, 25. “That’s what hurts the most.”

Khadka learned that his parents were alive after talking to his brother in Australia and has since managed to get through to them himself.

“I know it’s not possible right now, but I’m hoping to go back as soon as I can,” said Khadka, who last visited Nepal last month for his brother’s wedding.

Sujana Rajkarnikar, 26, was awakened in the middle of the night in her Boston bedroom by calls from her boyfriend, who was checking the news while working an overnight shift. “I was terrified,” she said. “I was shivering and sweating.” Eventually she got through to her parents and learned they were safe, though they won’t be making their trip to watch her graduate from Boston University next month.


For the families of Pineda and MacDonald, the wait for news on the couple lasted longer.

Relatives of MacDonald, who grew up in Brockton, spent Sunday scouring the couple’s home Sunday for an itinerary that could aid in rescue attempts, James Pineda said.

Carol Pineda works in the intensive care department of Tufts Medical Center’s Floating Hospital for Children, a Tufts spokeswoman confirmed Sunday.

Carol Pineda and Michael MacDonald, feared lost amid earthquake-triggered avalanches on Mount Everest, were found safe on Sunday night.Courtesy of James Pineda

“Two things that Carol is passionate about are the outdoors and her job,” said Rashed Durgham, who as interim chief administrative officer and pediatrician in chief at the hospital supervises Pineda.

“I would be surprised if she’s not knee-deep in the mud right now taking care of people,” Durgham said.

He described Pineda’s work as caring for “the sickest of the sick.”

MacDonald is a family law lawyer who just started his own practice, his mother said, after the couple moved about a year and a half ago to Massachusetts.

Relatives last spoke with the couple a week ago, Pineda said, when they set out for base camp.

They were not expected to hear from them again until early May.

At Iskcon Temple on Commonwealth Avenue in the Back Bay on Sunday afternoon, about 30 people gathered in prayer that included chants dedicated to the earthquake victims.


Among those killed were members of an Iskcon temple in Katmandu, said Boston temple Pyari Pyari Mohan Das. Other members survived but lost homes. Iskcon is an international Hindu temple in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition.

“There are so many people suffering, and we’d like to minimize the suffering through prayer,” said Mohan Das. “There’s not much else we can do.”

Waving flags and holding handmade signs, people arrived by the hundreds at Copley Square Sunday evening.

With tears welling in their eyes, they clutched flags and lit colorful candles on the ground to spell out “Nepal.”

Saakar and Sunita Thapa attended the vigil with their daughter, Saanvi. Sunita’s uncle and aunt died in the earthquake, Saakar Thapa said.

Devotees prayed during a service at Iskcon Temple in Back Bay on Sunday. ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE/Globe Freelance

The uncle, Biswa Karki, had Saturday off from his job as a major in the Nepali army and was spending time with his wife, Thapa said.

“He was on the first floor of a four-story building,” Thapa said as he held Saanvi. “He was trying to get out.’’

Thapa said Karki lived for about an hour trapped in the rubble.

Thapa said he hopes to donate a full day’s salary to relief funds.

At the vigil, which continued in songs and dancing, poetry and prayer, well into the evening, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said Boston will give back to Nepal.

“When the time comes we will be able to send money back home,” said Walsh, holding a bouquet of flowers. “I just want you to know you’re in our thoughts and prayers this evening.”


Sunday’s vigil emerged from a Saturday night meeting at Himalayan Indian Bistro in West Roxbury, where members of Boston-area organizations for Nepali immigrants traded stories about relatives lost or missing in the devastation.

“Everyone is still in shock,” said Amit Dixit, executive director of the South Asian Arts Council, one of several organizations working together to coordinate response and relief efforts.

The vigil, Dixit said, is a way to begin the healing process even as the organizations grapple with how they can best help those affected through relief efforts.

Fund-raising efforts by area organizations are underway — a Nepali student association and the University of Massachusetts Boston will meet on campus Monday afternoon. Dixit said the assembled community groups are urging that donations be made through the Red Cross.

Elisha Thapa said difficulty communicating with relatives in Nepal has compounded fear with frustration.

“There was a shortage of electricity as it is,” said Thapa, who last visited Nepal in 2013.

Her parents are here — her father, Ram Thapa, is president of the Greater Boston Nepali Community — but most of her extended family remains in Nepal.

“They have been too scared to go indoors,” said Thapa, 26, of Arlington. “They have been camping outside and running low on their batteries.”

Aftershocks, she said, have been nearly as devastating as the first initial quake.

“The catastrophe hasn’t ended. That’s the scariest part,” Thapa said. “People are going to bed scared. . . . The earth hasn’t stopped trembling.”


Officials spoke during a Copley Square vigil for those killed in the Nepal earthquake on Sunday. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Nestor Ramos can be reached at nestor.ramos@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos. Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com.