Rescue operations

On April 30 throng of people had gathered on one side of the Ring Road at Gongabu, one of the worst devastated areas in the Capital in the 7.6 magnitude earthquake of April 25. The people’s attention was on the rescue mission going on in the area that was once a hub of clustered guest houses. The rescue team of the Armed Police Force and USAid were trying to rescue another survivor after pulling out a young boy alive who had been buried since the day of the quake. The American rescue team comprising medical personnel and the canine unit looked impressive in their gear — navy blue uniform, helmets, knee pads and gloves. They were going in and coming out of the core area. The main site of the rescue activity was cordoned off by the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force. The rescue site, surrounded by tall buildings and a little inside from the road, was a mass of debris. The confined place was even more congested with two excavators and international as well as national media persons. And some onlookers had almost quite reached the main site to have a clearer view of the rescue work. Two volunteers — Rohit Pandey and Suchitra Tripathi came to “help where there is not enough manpower”. After having volunteered in Basantapur, Patan and Sankhu, they were to see if “our help was required”. Pandey is trained while Tripathi is not. They were carrying their own gloves, own food and water. They wanted to support the main rescue team by “doing supportive help like removing rubble or taking found bodies to the hospital among others” without disturbing them. As there was already enough help, the two volunteers moved on. Rescue operations after a disaster are very important in saving lives. However, there are possibilities for other accidents to happen in that risky zone. Director of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Division and Team Leader of NSET Search and Rescue Ganesh Kumar Jimee says, “The first and foremost important thing is ‘safety’. If people with the rescue mission are safe, then only will they be able to help others.” Safety is applied to both the core rescue team and other volunteers assisting them. Safety includes using safety equipment like gloves, helmet, knee pads, boots, masks. Jimee says, “At the site bricks pieces might fall on your head, you need helmets for such cases. There are sharp objects and you need to protect your hands for which you need gloves. Then boots and knee pads come in handy for different activities like crawling.” Hence, one has to study the surroundings while entering the sites. Moreover, “there are chances of unstable building structures. One has to be on his guard and think about the safety for one to help others”. As important as safety, Jimee also highlights the well-being of the individuals in such rescue operations for volunteers. “When you are carrying out such operations, you need to have proper food and consume water for energy. Otherwise, one will get exhausted as there is so much to do. Just because you want to help, you should not go on working endlessly being emotional.” To make things easier, people can “work in pairs and in rotation”. The one thing that he stresses on is that everyone should contribute as per their skills without overcrowding. “From high skilled technical manpower to minimal skilled people, everyone’s help is needed now. It is everyone’s responsibility and there are so much possibilities and opportunities to help.” However, everyone should realise his/her capacity and skill. High skilled and technical manpower are directly involved with rescuing, while others can help and support them in removing rubble or road cleaning. However, overcrowding is never an option in such situations. “They obstruct the rescue process in many ways. It is very tough to work with so many people around. Due to the crowd circling the rescue site, dogs of the canine search will get confused between the smells of people around and people trapped under the rubble making them take wrong decisions. This has happened. The various equipment used in the rescue process can’t be used freely too,” he shares. If 20 people are required for a job, there is no meaning of 100 people being there. Instead, unnecessary people can go to another place to help. In addition, he suggests, “It is a matter of life and death. Rescue mission is no place for practice and one has to work” to all volunteers. In such an operation Jimee believes that local people can lend a helping hands instead of just being bystanders. “As they are local people, they can help by providing the right information to the police that would help in rescuing the lives of people.” “It is not an easy job,” shares Armed Police Force DIGP Narayan Thapa, who has been supervising his team of rescue operations at Gongabu, on the kind of work he and his team perform. “There are lots of obstacles. There are people from the media and people who are curious. It is very risky out there. And the location is very fragile and anything can fall and rescue team can be at risk. When we gather at a site in large numbers and make lots of noise, the person trapped could be alive and will not be detected and the victim might also be short of oxygen. S/He could die,” he explains adding, “It will be easy if only a designated team works.” He adds that it is not the time to sit with arms folded but “for every hand to be used to remove soil, stones and tins rather than overcrowding. And we can work faster”.    In search of missing nephews

KATHMANDU: At Gongabu a rescue mission is going on. Among the crowd is Santa Bahadur Ruchal from Palpa. He looks carefully at the site where lots of guest houses stood once. Then he inquires about the ongoing activity to one of the Armed Force Police personnel. “I am looking for two of my nephews who have been out of contact since the morning of April 25,” Ruchal shared. This was no idle bystander passing his time watching the rescue work. He was there on a quest — a mission to find the whereabouts of his missing nephews. Ruchal arrived in the Capital on the morning of April 29 along with four other relatives at the bus park in Gongabu. Since then he has been looking for his missing nephews — Ramesh Baudel, 21, and Prakash Baudel, 16. Ramesh and Prakash had reached the Capital on the morning of April 25 and had been out of contact since then. Ramesh was returning to Qatar where he works and Prakash had come to see his brother off. “They have been unreachable since they informed us about their arrival at the bus park. We tried to contact them for the next two days but we couldn’t,” shared Ruchal. They have already done the rounds of TU Teaching Hospital, Bir Hospital and Dharahara checking the dead bodies and list of the dead and injured. As they couldn’t figure out which hotel the two were staying in, they went around searching in different hospitals and other places. As almost a week has passed since the earthquake, Ruchal is losing hope that his nephews might be alive. “We feel that they are not alive. If they were alive, they would have contacted us in any which way. Even if they had lost their phones, they would have called us through someone else’s phone.” “If they are trapped down there and alive, we would be very happy. But it has been six days and it is quite impossible for them to be alive now.” This uncle of the boys and four others have journeyed to the Capital while the parents back home are “worried and calling us frequently”. Ruchal added, “It will be okay even if we can find their bodies. We could at least show those to their parents.”