US team pulls woman from collapsed 4-story building in Nepal

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. rescuers from California and Virginia helped pull a 41-year-old woman from a four-story building that collapsed in the magnitude-7.3 earthquake in Nepal.

Tuesday's temblor was an aftershock to the April 25 earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people.

James Fleming, director of USAID's Nepal Earthquake Response, said its Disaster Assistance Response Team includes 57 elite urban search and rescuers each from Los Angeles County and Fairfax County, Virginia.

They happened to remain in country and experienced the massive aftershock after many other search and rescue teams had left.

"It was remarkable that they were still there because they were able to quickly scour Kathmandu for potential people who needed rescue," Fleming said. "What was even more remarkable was to have this live rescue of the 41-year-old woman near the epicenter."

While some members remained in Kathmandu to help search, others flew to Charikot and Singati, a mountain village roughly 20 miles southwest of Mount Everest, immediately after the aftershock.

The woman was rescued from the building rubble Tuesday after several hours of digging and drilling in Singati. Her condition was unknown but she was eating, drinking and able to move after the rescue.

Overnight, teams set up campfires to keep people warm and provided medical aid to the injured. On Wednesday, the woman and 11 other injured people were taken to a Kathmandu airport field hospital set up by the team for further treatment. A total of about 50 people were airlifted there for treatment from the multiple locations after the aftershock, Fleming said.

Last month, the teams helped rescue a teenage boy who had been trapped under the rubble for five days.

"To see the level of professionalism and the risk these people take to save lives is really incredible," Fleming said.

The Disaster Assistance Response Team, which also includes 22 USAID disaster experts and 12 dogs, surveyed 130 buildings and bridges for earthquake damage along with conducting other rescue efforts. Team members, who include structural engineers, also advised Nepal officials on the stability of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fleming said.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department urban search and rescue team and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department's team are FEMA and internationally-certified rescue teams that have deployed to tragedies such as the 2010 Haiti quake and to the 2011 Japan quake that triggered a massive tsunami.

They were sent to Nepal shortly after the main quake hit and have worked alongside other rescue teams from neighboring India, China and Russia. The U.S. search and rescue teams have wrapped up their work in their assigned area and its members are expected to be back home by next week. The 22 USAID disaster experts will remain in the country to focus on issues including shelter, water sanitation and hygiene, Fleming said.


Tami Abdollah can be reached at .

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