Prince Harry extends Nepal trip to help quake victims

Kathmandu (AFP) - Britain's Prince Harry announced during an official visit to Nepal Wednesday that he would extend his trip by six days to help rebuild a village school damaged during last year's earthquake.

During his stay, the prince met with families still living in camps after a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake last April destroyed their homes and killed nearly 9,000 people.

"The people I have met and the beauty of this country make it very hard to leave. Thankfully however, I'm not leaving just yet," he said at a reception hosted by the British Embassy in Kathmandu.

"I will be spending the next six days in a remote village with a charity called Team Rubicon. The team I'm joining will be working with a community to rebuild a school damaged in the earthquake."

Harry, 31, also visited quake-hit heritage sites and relief projects led by Gurkha soldiers on his first trip to the country, which celebrates 200 years of joint relations between Nepal and Britain.

His visit to a makeshift school -- set up after the quake damaged the original building -- coincided with Holi, the Hindu festival of colours, and he joined in celebrations, covering fellow revellers with red powder.

The prince's tour also included a night in a village where he was hosted by a Gurkha soldier's widow who lost her home in the quake.

"What happened in this country a year ago was a tragic disaster but the people I met showed me that everyone's focused on the work ahead," he said.

A member of the British army for 10 years before retiring in June, he served along with Gurkha troops in Afghanistan.

The prince had said on his arrival that he hoped his visit, which included a trek in the Himalayas and a trip to Bardia National Park, famous for its tiger conservation efforts, would encourage tourists to travel to the country.

"You have to come and walk in the foothills of the Himalayas - watching the sunrise over those majestic mountains is something I will never forget," he said.

Following the earthquake, Nepal is desperate to revive tourism including its mountaineering industry, key revenue-earners for the impoverished Himalayan nation.

Nepal, a former kingdom, has been visited by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The British army's 2,500-strong Gurkha brigade is made up of soldiers recruited in Nepal and has been part of the military for 200 years.

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