Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 14:45 UK

Lumley mobbed by crowds in Nepal

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Joanna Lumley arrives in Nepal

Actress Joanna Lumley has been mobbed by hundreds of well-wishers and Gurkha veterans after arriving in Nepal for a week-long visit.

On arrival in Kathmandu, Ms Lumley was greeted by a crowd armed with garlands of flowers and colourful scarves.

Ms Lumley, whose father was a Gurkha regiment officer, fronted a campaign for UK settlement rights for Gurkhas.

According to the AP news agency, she greeted the crowd with the Gurkha battle cry "Ayo Gurkhali".

The agency quoted her as saying: "My friends of Nepal, I am your family coming to Nepal for the first time.

"I want to thank you so much."

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kathmandu said there was "chaos" at Tribhuvan International Airport when Ms Lumley was mobbed by Gurkha veterans and supporters.

He added that Ms Lumley was regarded as an "absolute hero" in Nepal following her campaigns on behalf of the Gurkhas.

Some of those who turned out to meet her carried placards which read: "Goddess Joanna" and "Thank you."

Ms Lumley said she was thankful for the overwhelming welcome, adding that, although she had never visited Nepal before, it felt like a homecoming.

Accompanied by members of her family and by Peter Carroll, who started the campaign, Ms Lumley will meet Nepal's prime minister and president.

'Amazingly emotional'

"It's thrilling, it really is," Ms Lumley said at London's Heathrow Airport, prior to her flight on Saturday evening.

"We were met by the most wonderful group of Gurkhas outside Terminal 3, with silk scarves and bunches of flowers.

I don't think it can be anything other than wonderful
Joanna Lumley

"It's just incredible. I've never been to Nepal before, and this is really going to be just stunning," she added.

"I feel so humbled by the fact I'm going to meet so many ex-Gurkhas and their families, and see where they are and how they live.

"I don't think it can be anything other than wonderful."

On Tuesday Ms Lumley will visit Jhapa and Dharan to meet Gurkhas.

Mr Carroll said some people were expected to walk for three days just to be there.

"I think it's going to be an amazingly emotional experience," he said.

In May, the government said all retired Gurkha soldiers - originally from Nepal - with at least four years service in the British Army, could stay in the UK.


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