A Disaster Assistance Response Team that includes members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department assisted with the rescue of a 15-year-old boy from rubble on Thursday—five days after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal.
The DART, which is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, was deployed upon the request of Nepal’s government to assist with rescue and recovery efforts following Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
“The whole operation was dangerous, but it’s risk versus gain,” said Los Angeles County Fire Captain Andrew Olvera, who is part of the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team. “To save a human life, we’ll risk almost everything.”
USA-1, a USAR team from Fairfax, Virginia, was working through rubble when they heard a voice coming from below the pile. They requested assistance from USA-2—the Los Angeles County Fire Department USAR team—to assist. Using USA-2’s technical search cameras, rescuers discovered a teen boy buried deep in the rubble.
The two rescue teams and members of Nepal’s government removed the debris and pulled the boy out. Though search dogs were in the area, they were not involved in the boy’s rescue.
The rescue operation took several hours, but thanks to early coordination with Nepali officials, the teen was quickly transported to a field hospital for treatment. A USA-2 doctor and paramedics treated and stayed with the boy then transferred him to the Nepali officials who transported him to the Israeli field hospital.
Rescuers are continuing to dig through the pile, as the boy mentioned there may be other people alive inside.
The Department’s 57-person USA-2 and Fairfax’s 57-person USA-1 are part of the DART, which also includes 14 USAID disaster experts and 12 canines—six from L.A. County.
The team is made up of specialized personnel, and includes all necessary equipment to make live rescues from collapsed structures and confined spaces. The U.S. is currently prioritizing search and rescue activities to help locate survivors trapped in the rubble and the provision of emergency shelter materials to help displaced families.
While DART USAR teams are engaged in lifesaving operations, USAID disaster experts are assessing damage in earthquake-affected areas and coordinating response efforts with the government of Nepal and international humanitarian partners on the ground.
A USAID-chartered cargo plane carrying 700 rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting landed in Kathmandu to help up to 35,000 people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. The plastic sheeting will be distributed to earthquake-affected families by a USAID partner in coordination with the Government of Nepal.
The UN estimates that the earthquake killed 5,006 people, injured more than 10,000 others, and affected 8 million people across 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts as of April 27. These figures are expected to rise as rescue efforts continue.
USA-2, known domestically as California Task Force 2, has partnerships with both the Federal Emergency Management Agency for domestic responses and USAID/OFDA for international missions. The team maintains constant operational readiness for both domestic and international deployments.
For more information on Nepal and how to donate to disaster relief efforts, visit www.usaid.gov/nepal-earthquake or www.cidi.org, or contact the Center for International Disaster Information at 202-821-1999.
Photo gallery: The USAID DART rescues a teen in Nepal 5 days after the earthquake. Photos courtesy USAID DART.