Death of a daring trekker

Published October 14, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Oct 13: Raheela Gul, who had plans to trek the Amazon, became a casualty of the Margalla Towers presidential block that crumbled within seconds of the devastating earthquake on Saturday.

Ms Gul was not a resident of the building or even the city. She was just visiting a friend, who also lost his life in the tragedy. Both were on a third floor apartment and had plans to leave for Lahore at 9am, when the quake struck.

Ms Gul, a 35-year-old Pakistani Norwegian, had met Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Oct 5 to discuss her Amazon mission. Earlier this year, she had crossed on foot Nara, Thar and Cholistan deserts. Her passion for extreme sports and spirit of adventure had also taken her to Baltoro glacier, the base camps of K2, Rakaposhi and Nanga Prabat, the second highest peak in the world.

As a diploma-holder in travel and tourism from the London School of Management, she was trained in rock climbing, mountaineering and river crossing. She was also trained in evacuation and rescue and first-aid.

Her body was identified by her family members late Wednesday night at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences.

Her brother Mohammad Wasif, who had rushed from Lahore on Saturday, was full of hope till Wednesday afternoon. “I have a feeling that she will walk out of this rubble any minute,” he said while talking to this reporter shortly before her body was found.

Looking at the rubble being cleared, Mr Wasif said: “We have blocked all negative thoughts and are just focusing on prayers. She is down there somewhere alive and will be out any moment…Raheela’s mother is waiting for her in Lahore.”

Ms Gul was in Islamabad to get funding for her Amazon project. She had received a letter of intent for funding from the Norwegian embassy. Telenor, the Norwegian telecom operator, had also committed support. She was to embark on her next adventure in November.

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