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Nepal Earthquake

Nepal Earthquake: American Families Wait in Anguish for Loved Ones’ Contact

Survivor Pulled From Rubble 80 Hours After Nepal Earthquake Hit 2:33

Many who travel to far-flung Nepal expect to be cut off from communication for days or even weeks at a time.

But after a devastating earthquake hit the Himalayan nation Saturday, American families thousands of miles away are left wondering if their loved ones' radio silence is status quo — or if they should be preparing for the worst.

The death toll surpassed 5,000 on Tuesday, and an unknown number of bodies could still be buried beneath the rubble. Texas mom Sharon Banks knows the agony of waiting to hear from a family member.

Her 22-year-old daughter, Danielle, left for Nepal on March 2 on a humanitarian mission to help women and children exploited in the human trafficking industry.

“Am I going to be planning a funeral, and am I going to have a body to plan one with?”

Banks said she got a text from Danielle early Saturday morning saying that she was at a base camp on Mount Everest and had just experienced an avalanche. Banks texted her back and asked if she was safe, but she didn’t hear back.

At first, Banks thought nothing of it. Danielle often put her phone on airplane mode on the mountain in order to save battery in the cold, she told herself.

But when Banks woke up, she realized the situation in Nepal was far worse than she imagined and tried to reach her daughter again. She didn’t hear back for nearly two days.

Danielle Banks
Danielle Banks on Mount Everest.

"I was terrified," Banks told NBC News on Tuesday. "I didn’t know if she was dead or alive."

Banks said she had a nightmare scenario running through her mind: "Am I going to be planning a funeral, and am I going to have a body to plan one with?"

Then, good news. Danielle was finally able to contact her mother late Sunday night, at which point she was airlifted to the American Embassy. She will be home in Farmersville, Texas, on Saturday.

When Danielle called her mother from the embassy though, coming home was the last thing on her mind. “She goes, ‘Well do you think I need to stay and help with the relief here?’” Banks said. She realizes helping those in need is her daughter’s "passion," and she’s sure the recent college graduate will return to Nepal or Chile, where she has volunteered before.

Right now, Banks is back into mom mode — and simply wants to feel her daughter in her arms again. “I need some relief,” Banks said.

A family in Portland, Maine, is also accustomed to not hearing from their 57-year-old matriarch, Dawn Habash, for days on end when she backpacks through Nepal. She left March 20 for her fourth excursion there.

Her son, Khaled Habash, 33, said that even though he hasn’t spoken to his mother since April 17 and was "expecting to hear from her literally any day before the earthquake," he’s hopeful that she's safe.

Dawn Habash
Dawn Habash's family hasn't heard from her after an earthquake hit Nepal Saturday. Khaled Habash

Habash told NBC News that he and his 31-year-old sister are still expecting to hear from his mother soon because her second grandchild is due any day, and the community misses the beloved yoga teacher immensely.

The siblings have both traveled to Nepal as well, and know that communication can be impossible from certain areas.

"That’s sort of the one thing that’s keeping both of us cool and positive," he said. "We know how remote some of those places are."

Survivor Pulled From Rubble 80 Hours After Nepal Earthquake Hit 2:33