LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The 57-person task force of Southland firefighters landed Tuesday, April 28, in Nepal to help in rescue and recovery efforts following a magnitude-7.8 earthquake reported to have killed more than 5,000 people in the Himalayan nation.
The Los Angeles County Fire Department’s California Task Force 2 — known internationally as USA-2 Medium Search and Rescue Team — departed the task force’s San Fernando Valley headquarters and took off for Nepal on Sunday, April 26, aboard a C-17 transport plane from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Keith Mora.
Thousands of people, including a Santa Monica-based documentary filmmaker, Tom Taplin, were killed in the earthquake, which struck just before noon local time Saturday — just before 11:15 p.m. on Friday, California time. Taplin was in Nepal making a film about the community at the Mount Everest base camp, according to news reports.
More than 10,000 people were injured.
A Santa Monica couple was reported to be missing since the quake but turned up safe, using a Facebook page, Nepal Art Dogs, to notify family and friends that “We are safe, but Nepal is not.”
Urban Search and Rescue Task Force Team 2 was notified Saturday by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to gather its personnel and equipment and prepare for deployment, according to Sprewell, Public Information Officer with the county fire department’s Homeland Security Section.
Each member of the team has a specific area of expertise, including doctors, structure collapse experts, engineering specialists and dog handlers, he said.
“The majority are firefighter-paramedics,” Sprewell told CNS. There are similar teams in other countries, but only two in the U.S.; and the other team, out of Fairfax County, Virginia, has already deployed to the region, according to Sprewell.
No other deployments have been scheduled at this time, according to USAID officials.
The Los Angeles-based task force started out as a Federal Emergency Management Agency team responding only to domestic disasters.
Its duties have expanded to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Sprewell said.