Nepal Aid Update: New Quake Strikes, Scripps Team Safe

In this photo by a member of the Scripps Medical Response Team, damage from the May 12, 2015 Nepal aftershock can be seen.

Scripps Health Medical Response Team members who have been in Nepal providing aid for just over a week felt the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that triggered a new wave of deaths, injuries and damage in a country still reeling from the one on April 25 that killed more than 8,000.

All five members of our team — Tim Collins (corporate vice president, operations and research), Deb McQuillen, RN (assistant vice president, cardiovascular services), Patty Skoglund, RN (senior director of disaster/emergency), Jan Zachry, RN (vice president and chief nursing executive) and Steve Miller (senior director, clinical services) — are safe. I was able to get updates from them in the early morning hours here in San Diego after the latest quake struck.

Team members describe mountains shaking

As you might know from my earlier posts, the Scripps responders have formed two medical teams with several doctors and health care responders from other health systems and organizations. Together, they have been running temporary medical clinics in remote mountainous communities outside Kathmandu.

The first team, which includes Tim, Jan and Deb, was preparing to leave the village of Kharibot, located northwest of the capital at about 10,500 feet of elevation. As they were awaiting the arrival of a helicopter to return them to their base of operations in Gorkha, the quake struck. Tim reported that the temblor “started with a rumble, and then it increased to a real shake.”

Their camping area was intentionally set up away from structures so they would be safe from any falling debris. After receiving word that the helicopter had been damaged by the latest shaking and wouldn’t be able to pick them up as scheduled, the group set up camp again. They said they have enough food and water to see them through the next couple of nights while they wait for transportation.

The second team was in a hotel in the Dhading district where they were resting for the day after returning from a mission to the devastated mountain village of Dharka. When the latest quake struck, the team was inside a two-story building. Everyone quickly evacuated the structure and gathered in the streets with hundreds of others who made their way to the safety of a nearby field.

Patty described the scene this way: There was “a rolling shake that lasted for about 15 to 20 seconds. Children were screaming looking for parents. It just broke our hearts to see such fear in everyone’s faces.” At least seven aftershocks have followed, and the city was without power. Patty said about 75 percent of the city’s populace had evacuated.

1,000+ patients treated to date

With the second team’s plan to head to the village of Tipling put on hold for now, they might be called to help care for those injured in the latest quake at the Dhading district hospital.

All together, the two teams have treated more than 1,060 patients.

While this mission presents dangers, as witnessed earlier today, it’s extraordinarily rewarding for the Scripps team. They are tired and working long hours, but they are doing great work with people who desperately need their help.