CAF Story: When Mother Nature hit Nepal hard, the DART was ready to deploy and assist.

Video / May 31, 2016


In late April 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal in the Kathmandu region. It caused a fair amount of destruction around the capital and in the outskirts. It is a country with relatively limited resources which was really in a state of crisis, and needed help.

My name is Master Warrant Officer Jules Bérubé, 5 Field Ambulance Valcartier. The Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is a team of about 200 people, mainly military, who come from different organizations and different units. There are medical personnel, combat engineers, infantry, communications people, the air force provides helicopter support, and even firefighters to do search and rescue. They are highly qualified and equipped to intervene in the early hours and first days of the disaster. And of course they must be ready to deploy at any time, just like firefighters, for example. And this has implications. We had different medical teams on the ground, some centralized in the capital of Kathmandu. Others were deployed a little further in the outskirts and in difficult places to reach. You have to understand that the terrain in Nepal is extremely mountainous. It is extremely difficult to access. And this is especially true after a disaster like that, which cuts off the roads. And it was us who had to go and provide care.

The initial quake had a magnitude of 7.8. There was an aftershock of 7.3, and in fact we had our team on the ground immediately. The Canadian Armed Forces DART deployed very rapidly in the minutes following the second earthquake. Our people on the ground at that time made a huge difference. The work and expertise of Canadian medical teams was welcomed and recognized by everyone. I am very proud of our teams. The person whose life was saved thanks to our team, that person or that family, are perhaps less than one percent of all the people who received help. But for them it’s not a one percent difference. For them it's a one hundred percent difference.

One memory I have of the mission: I had para-medics deployed on the ground to help isolated villagers, but in this village there were ruins, sections of a wall, which began collapsing everywhere. People were running in all directions. And then there were children who were gathered around a para-medic on the ground, herself a mother who has young children there. And so rather than letting the kids run all over the place she gathered them together. And she and another medic made a shield of themselves to protect these children. They truly took action. It was a reflex, but it was heroic, and it really made a difference.

It is a life changing experience. Seeing the power of nature, you realize you are very small.

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