Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Urban Search and Rescue Troops and Medics Prepare to Deploy to Devastated Nepal

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Urban Search and Rescue Troops and Medics Prepare to Deploy to Devastated Nepal

Article excerpt

CF positions rescuers and medics for Nepal

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OTTAWA - The Harper government stepped up its response to earthquake-ravaged Nepal on Sunday by dispatching advance elements of its highly specialized disaster assistance response team.

Troops who conduct urban search and rescue and medical personnel departed aboard one of the air force's massive C-17 transports, which is also carrying over 36,000 kilograms of medical and humanitarian relief supplies.

Maj.-Gen. Dean Milner, who commands the 1st Canadian Division headquarters, says the plane is eventually bound for Kathmandu, the hard hit capital of Nepal.

"The critical thing is to get on the ground and determine where we can provide that assistance," Milner said in an interview with The Canadian Press, late Sunday. "I am happy we front-end loaded a couple of these capabilities...We'll be able to provide some rapid assistance, if required."

Separately, a smaller team of soldiers and civilians will evaluate how Canada can best assist both in the short and medium-term amid the devastation. That group also departed for the region as the death toll following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake continued to mount.

Lauren Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Defence Minister Jason Kenney, says the rescuers and medics are being sent abroad even before the evaluation is conducted because there are some aspects that are already clear.

She says the decision is "based on what we know is needed right now."

Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson says it will be a few days before the small evaluation team reports back on the scale of the devastation in the capital, which has seen hundreds of buildings flattened and -- according to one Nepalese police official -- at least 3,218 people killed.

Milner said a decision on whether to deploy other elements of the team will come after the evaluation.

Asked if there were plans to get Canadians out of the ruined country, Milner said that is not something he's been asked to do at this point, but "the bottom line is that's something we can do extremely quickly as well. …

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