Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department who were in Nepal conducting earthquake-recovery operations have all been safely accounted for following a magnitude-7.3 aftershock on Tuesday, May 12.
The 57-member Los Angeles County Medium Urban Search and Rescue team, which is serving as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID), is one of two of the agency teams sent to Nepal following a massive 7.8-magnitude quake hit the area on April 25. The other team is made up of 54 people from Fairfax County in Virginia.
The Los Angeles County team was preparing to come home when Tuesday’s large aftershock occurred. County fire Capt. Keith Mora said the team will now remain in Nepal to help recovery efforts from the latest quake.
It’s unclear how much longer the team will remain in Nepal to continue their work. They are part of the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) that come from areas throughout Los Angeles county, including the San Fernando Valley. DART is currently comprised of 133 people — a 57-person urban search and rescue (USAR) team from L.A .County, a 54-person USAR team from Fairfax, VA, 22 USAID disaster experts and 12 canines.
“We deployed them hours after the [first] earthquake and they have been there for two weeks, but then this other quake happened Tuesday, so now they are continuing their search and rescue operations with dogs to recover survivors. The team paramedics have been helping triage people with other first responders from many other countries,” said Carol Han, a spokesperson for USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
The U.S. military has also been airlifting people in need of medical help and from areas where roads have been destroyed.
“On Tuesday night, following the aftershock, USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team’s urban search-and-rescue members rescued a 41-year-old woman from a four-story building in the village of Singati, which is approximately 50 miles east of Kathmandu. Local residents informed USAID USAR members of the trapped woman, and the rescue operation took approximately four hours,” Han said.
“USAID USAR members provided medical care to the woman and 11 other people overnight in Singati until helicopters returned to fly the patients and the team to Kathmandu Wednesday morning.”
Han went on to say, “A triage center was established at Tribhuvan International Airport, where USAID USAR staff, US military personnel, and Nepal Army first responders treated more than 40 people airlifted by the US military. The patients were later transported to local medical facilities. Medical supplies airlifted by the USAID DART on May 10 were used by the airport medical teams.”
Real Medicine Foundation — a nonprofit relief organization started in the San Fernando Valley by Dr. Martina Fuchs, formally a pediatrician working at L.A. Children’s Hospital — also sent a team on the ground in Nepal. Following the aftershock, Cindy Stein, director of global programs for the organization, sent this update late Tuesday from Kathmandu:
“I’m in a very communal tent in a parking lot right now, The city is in a cryogenic freeze. Nobody is going anywhere and most everything is closed. We set up a camp, there’s 100s of people and no electricity. I had purchased tarps for distribution yesterday so we set up communal areas. The city is a wreck. Saw many buildings just crushed. Many aftershocks. Nobody will go indoors and like 1000 wild dogs barking.”
The Real Medicine Foundation provides humanitarian and medical support to people living in disaster and poverty stricken areas.
During the aftershock, the Real Medicine Foundation team was close to the epicenter. Communicating through a Facebook page, one member of their relief team wrote: “The RMF team is ok but epicenter close to where we were in Kavre. Pray for the people there—all living in damaged homes on hillsides. The need for aid will be exponential after this and the tremors are large and keep coming.”
People are desperate for tarps and hygiene kits and are worried about the upcoming monsoons that come about this time of year. With so many people now living outdoors in the elements without sanitation or supplies, their risk for the outbreak of disease becomes more critical.
Nepal has appealed for foreign aid and medical personnel but with so much devastation, response teams have been challenged.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Marine helicopter carrying six Marines and relief supplies went missing. Buildings and homes already damaged by the first quake collapsed in the aftershock.
Officials are urging people in the affected areas to leave their damaged homes that could collapse.
If you would like to support to the Real Medicine Foundation’s relief efforts, visit their website www.realmedicinefoundation.org to donate.