The 57-person task force of Southland firefighters landed Tuesday in Nepal to help in rescue and recovery efforts following a magnitude-7.8 earthquake reported to have killed more than 3,800 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 around 11:25 p.m.
Sunday aboard a C-17 transport plane from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, said Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Keith Mora.
Also, three fire personnel from the Pasadena Fire Department are expected to leave at 11:50 p.m. today from the Los Angeles International Airport headed to Nepal, said Lisa Derderian of the Pasadena Fire Department.
Firefighter Matt Caffey, Capt. Tim Okimura and Engineer Dave Marquez will take a 14-hour, 50-minute aboard China Southern Airlines flight number 328 from the Los Angeles International Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, Derderian said.
The men will there to be provide medical care to the growing number of injured in the affected area. They are all a part of Pasadena Fire’s Urban Search and Rescue team.
The trio is expected to return to Los Angeles on May 15 on China Southern Airlines flight number 327, arriving at LAX at 7:40 p.m.
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.
A Santa Monica couple was reported to be missing since the quake but turned up safe this morning, using a Facebook page, Nepal Art Dogs, to notify family and friends that “We are safe, but Nepal is not,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
A. Michelle Page and her husband Daniel Adams arrived in Nepal last week. Page planned to collect portraits of dogs, cats, horses and rabbits by local artists and commission more Nepalese artwork that she would sell to American pet lovers, according to The Times.
Page, 58, is a former film editor whose projects included the Spider-Man trilogy and Robert Altmans “The Player, according to her website.
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.
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.