Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel deployed to Nepal as part of the USA Task Force 2 (USA-2) medium urban search and rescue (USAR) are returning to Los Angeles in incremental groups on Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16.
“The team spent 19 days in Nepal searching for victims in the Kathmandu City area, and has completed its mission,” Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
After clearing U.S. Customs at Los Angeles International Airport, team members are being transported to the Department’s Urban Search and Rescue facility in Pacoima to reunite with their families.
USA-2 was part of a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) deployed at the request of the Nepali government by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance on April 25 following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake the same day. The team continued search and rescue efforts after a magnitude 7.3 aftershock Tuesday.
Less than 24 hours after the aftershock, the USAID USAR team rescued a 41-year-old woman from a four-story building in the village of Singati, which is about 50 miles east of Kathmandu and in the same district as the epicenter of Tuesday’s earthquake. Local residents informed USAID USAR members of the trapped woman, and the rescue operation took about four hours.
USAID USAR members provided medical care to the woman, in addition to 11 other people, overnight in Singati until helicopters returned to fly the patients and the team to Kathmandu.
USAID USAR staff, U.S. military personnel and Nepal Army first responders treated more than 40 people airlifted by the U.S. military at a triage center at Tribhuvan International Airport. These patients were later transported to local medical facilities.
Prior to Tuesday’s rescue, urban search and rescue team members helped pull a 15-year-old boy from the rubble in Kathmandu on April 30. The boy had been trapped for five days.
The DART comprises 133 people, including 22 USAID disaster experts, a 54-person USAR team from Fairfax, Virginia, known as USA-1; a 57-person USAR team from Los Angeles County known as USA-2, which includes Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel; and 12 canines—six from each USAR team.
While in Nepal, the USAID DART has coordinated the U.S. government’s response efforts, conducted search and rescue operations, surveyed dozens of structures for earthquake damage, and done aerial assessments over areas made inaccessible by landslides to identify humanitarian needs.
The Nepali government said that the initial earthquake, which the U.N. estimates affected 8 million people, and its aftershocks killed 8,250 people and injured more than 16,800 others. More than 543,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Authorities expect these figures to rise.
USA-2, known domestically as California Task Force 2, has partnerships with USAID/OFDA for international missions and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for domestic responses. The team maintains constant operational readiness for both international and domestic 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.
Featured image: The USAR warehouse in Pacoima is ready for USA-2’s return. Photo by Inspector Randall Wright.