POLITICS

Canadian team cut off from base by latest Nepal quake, path cleared by DART team

05/12/2015 10:42 EDT | Updated 05/12/2016 05:59 EDT
All Canadian Forces members deployed to earthquake-ravaged Nepal were safe and accounted for after another quake hit the country Tuesday, although one team was briefly cut off from its base after a landslide triggered by the temblor blocked its path.

The latest quake to rattle the country struck midway between Kathmandu and Mount Everest, hitting an area of the Himalayan foothills the hardest, but was felt all over the Nepalese capital and surrounding region.

Local authorities said at least 37 people were dead, though that number was expected to rise, and more than 1,100 were injured. The quake came barely three weeks after the country was devastated by its worst earthquake in decades, which killed more than 8,000.

The Foreign Affairs Department said all Canadian government personnel in the country, including nearly 200 members of the Canadian Forces, were safe after Tuesday's quake, and said it was working to reach out to Canadians in the country by all available means.

Some members of Canada's Disaster Assistance Response Team, however, were temporarily stranded while visiting remote villages after a landslide blocked their route back to their base, Camp Sumitra, located about 70 kilometres northeast of Kathmandu.

"They were on a section of the highway that had been cut off by a landslide," DART spokeswoman Lt.-Cmdr. Kelly Williamson told The Canadian Press in an interview from Nepal. "They were fine. We sent some heavy equipment that we have based at Camp Sumitra and they did clear the road."

The equipment used to dig away the rubble was a MPEV, or a multi-purpose engineering vehicle, which had been brought to Nepal from Canada, Williamson said.

The quake was also felt at DART's headquarters in Kathmandu, as well as at its other operations in a village 16 kilometres north of the capital.

"Everyone is safe and accounted for," Williamson said. "We all felt the quake probably to the same degree."

After the shaking had stopped, members of DART's medical assistance team were asked by the Nepalese army to assist with casualties at a hospital that had been set up at the international airport in Kathmandu, Williamson said. DART's urban search and rescue technicians were also put on standby.

The country's relief and emergency recovery effort are being run by the Nepalese government and army, with Canadian teams available to assist where they best can, said Williamson, noting that DART would spend the coming days reassessing where it would be the most useful.

"We'll conduct reconnaissance to some of the villages we've previously visited to reassess how this latest quake has impacted residents," she said.

The latest quake came just as the country was beginning to recover from the horrific effects of the massive earthquake that hit at the end of April.

Kent Page, a Mississauga, Ont., resident currently working with UNICEF in Kathmandu, said Tuesday's temblor would make what was already a difficult rebuilding effort a little bit harder.

"Nobody needed a second earthquake," he said.

Page was with a team assessing the safety of schools in Kathmandu when Tuesday's quake hit. He was inside a school building as it started shaking violently.

"It hit very hard, very fast, very loud, and for a second or two you didn't really know what was going on," he said. "I thought the building was going to collapse on us."

The streets of the capital were filled with people who had rushed outdoors and were making calls to check on loved ones, Page said. A few minutes later, an aftershock hit.

"That was also very scary," said Page. "There were some very anxious moments."

The psychological impact of two significant quakes in such close succession with each other is now a key concern, Page said, while also noting the strength of the country's residents.

"The Nepali people are wonderful people, they're very strong, they're very resourceful, they're very resilient and they're going to pull through this," he said. "But certainly they've been through a lot."

Canada has announced five million dollars in humanitarian assistance funding to Nepal. The federal government has also said it will match eligible contributions until May 25 made to registered Canadian charities for earthquake relief efforts in Nepal.