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Burnaby, Mission firefighters heading to Nepal to search for earthquake survivors

A team of Burnaby firefighters is off to Nepal to help search for survivors buried in the rubble of Kathmandu.

A team of Burnaby firefighters is off to Nepal to help search for survivors buried in the rubble of Kathmandu.

Eighteen firefighters, including three canine experts from Burnaby and Mission, were scheduled to take off for Nepal by way of Hong Kong early Monday, along with four members of the Canadian Medical Assistance Teams.

“We’re going as a technical search team, which means that we’re going to try and locate victims that are buried,” said Mark Pullen, a retired Burnaby firefighter who has used dogs to help with rescues following hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2005 North Vancouver landslide.

The firefighters will be equipped with specialized dogs, cameras that can provide views inside the crevices of collapsed buildings, and seismic equipment that can detect the vibration of a survivor tapping on a brick deep below the surface.

Pullen said the canine team would also be searching for the bodies of victims of the magnitude 7.8 quake. The dogs use different signals to indicate whether a buried person is alive or dead — excited barking for alive, quiet scratching for dead.

The first big challenge, however, will be getting into Nepal.

“It’s very difficult to finally get into the country because of damage to the airports and so on,” Pullen said.

“There’s always chances along the way that you can get cancelled or you can run into transport problems where we could be stuck along the route.”

But once they’ve touched down in Nepal, he’s confident that his team’s training in collapsed buildings will pay off.

“Their experience is good. The Burnaby firefighters have been training for the inevitable, of course,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is sending a disaster assessment team to Nepal and is contributing $5 million to relief efforts, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson’s office said.

Vancouver’s Heavy Urban Search and Rescue task force is also ready to deploy to Nepal if the federal government asks it to do so.

 

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