As Britain wakes this morning the SERVE ON rescue team are already hard at work searching remote rural areas of Nepal for survivors of Saturdays devastating earthquake. The team have been joined by medics and dog handlers and are assessing a district where early indications are of severe damage to nearly half of all buildings. In the village the team are searching now, 70-80% of homes have been destroyed and there are many fatalities. They describe the building damage as devastating for the local communities- some leaning at dangerous angles, some totally collapsed, some facades are intact but on entering, the whole of the back of the buildings have fallen away.
Its estimated that between 700 - 1100 people may have died in the surrounding area, how ever with over a hundred small villages now inaccessible by road figures may rise. Some will take four to five days to reach on foot through difficult terrain. It has been raining hard and the operating conditions have difficult. They are working closely with the Nepalese army, but the team (now numbering 16) are the only international rescuers in this district, and were the first contact affected villagers had with the outside world.
The SERVE ON team are travelling light, with essential search and rescue equipment to identify any signs of life in the rubble and have been able to invite the UK ISAR search dogs and specialist doctor onto their transport . They can also provide up to 8,000 litres a day of clean filtered water to support other rescuers and the affected communities, and generators as the electricity supply has also failed.
SERVE ON members are all volunteers and rely on the support of their families and employers to enable them to leave at short notice to do this dangerous work. Within hours of receiving a text alert they were at the teams Salisbury headquarters preparing for their flight, and the hectic pace has been maintained ever since. On arrival in Kathmandu the team searched some larger structures like hotels and hospitals, before being re-tasked to push the rescue effort outside of the city.
The team have slotted comfortably into an established United Nations framework and years of training, practicing and deploying together mean that many of the international rescue teams are well known to each other. SERVE ON are particularly proud that organisations they have supported to grow are also responding in Nepal and have made a number of rescues. Thanks to a program developed by British Gurkas Nepal (BGN) members of SERVE ON were in Kathmandu just five months ago gaining contacts sharing their expertise with local agencies as part of a disaster management course delivered by Bournemouth University.
Despite being the first British rescue team into Nepal, SERVE ON are a small charity and rely entirely on donations from the public. They unfortunately cannot benefit from DEC funding. The best way you can help their crucial mission is to donate direct to the charity through their website at www.serveon.org.uk or through links on twitter @SERVE_ON
Notes to editors:
The remote location and lack of phone or internet coverage currently prohibits interviews with the team on the ground at this point.
Interviews are available in Salisbury and London (this am only) with experienced team members, and the operations command tea, who are themselves in regular contact with the team. Call 01722 439327 to book a slot.