DUBLIN (CNS) — An Irish priest who was among a group of parishioners trapped in Nepal after a catastrophic earthquake has spoken of the group’s brush with disaster, admitting “we’re lucky to be alive.”

Father Tom Dalton, a priest of the Ferns Diocese, had just arrived in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, with a group of 11 other Irish people on a trekking expedition, when the magnitude-7.8 quake struck.

Hundreds of buildings were immediately flattened and government officials predicted the death toll could top 10,000 people.

In a text message, Father Dalton told The Irish Catholic newspaper that the disaster was the “closest I ever want to be to a 9/11 experience” — a reference to the 2001 terror attack in New York that toppled the twin towers of the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people.

He said the group was in one of the few buildings that did not collapse.

“The buildings collapsed and everywhere was covered in rubble and dust. We escaped that by quick thinking and closing the door for a few minutes before going outside,” he said. “We weren’t injured at all, thankfully.”

He recounted how in the aftermath of the quake, the group had celebrated an open-air Mass with locals for those who lost their lives or were affected by the disaster.

Father Dalton said the Irish group had drinking water, food and shelter, “but all around us there is huge devastation.”

“They are still pulling bodies from the rubble in the old square,” he said, “and the aftershocks are constant.”