Montgomery County residents are not just donating to the rescue efforts in Nepal from afar; they are on the ground.
After Nepal’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake and aftershocks starting April 25, the United States Agency for International Development sent teams to assist. On April 30, a team from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue — including three Montgomery County residents — helped get a 15-year-old boy out from under the rubble of a collapsed building, where he had been living for five days.
“The team was excited to be able to assist … get that young man out of the precarious position he was in,” said team leader Chris Schaff, battalion chief and program manager. Although Schaff is not from Montgomery County, he is leading the team in Nepal right now.
Although the rescue was a victory, Schaff said the team has not found many people alive since but helps Nepali authorities locate bodies that need to be recovered. The death toll from the earthquake has risen above 7,000 people, according to published reports.
Schaff also said the workers are assessing buildings to try to allow people to move back into houses and apartment buildings.
“It seems to be returning to some sort of normalcy with some of the street shops reopening … and people moving about and some of the electricity coming back on as well,” Schaff said of the progress in Nepal.
Nepali groups have also helped the team get into remote areas they might not otherwise be able to access, according to Schaff. He said Nepal residents warmly received the team, as has been the case when the workers have gone to other countries through USAID rescue efforts.
Schaff, who has been part of the team since 2008, said he also went to Japan after the tsunami and earthquake. Although every experience has its challenges, he said Nepal has been similar to places he has been in the past because it always revolves around rescuing people.
“That’s what our job is and what we train for,” Schaff said. “(There’s) excitement at being able to help the people … there’s always sadness that comes along when you can’t help.”
Schaff and general USAID policy say the best way for people to help the rescue efforts in Nepal is monetary donations to reputable aid organizations rather than objects or other things harder to transport to the right place.
The team will be in Nepal until further notice. The three Montgomery County residents abroad with the team are Anthony McIntyre, M.D., Dan Hanfling, M.D., and structural engineer Jon Tung. For information on the United States’ rescue efforts, go to usaid.gov.
Residents of Montgomery County with family in Nepal have also been organizing fundraising efforts. The webmaster for the Montgomery County Council, Namita Acharya, is hosting a table in Rockville Town Square to facilitate and collect donations on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. this week, as she did last week.