San Diego nurses safe after 2nd Nepal quake

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SAN DIEGO -- A team of four nurses and a leader from Scripps Health in San Diego were said to be safe following a second major earthquake in the Himalayan country Tuesday.

"They’re all outside.  I sense more anxiety now than in the first ten days or so since, they were there," said Chris Van Gorder, President and CEO of Scripps Health.

Van Gorder is also the team's commanding officer.

Nurse Patty Skoglund said she and nurse Steve Miller were resting in a hotel in Dhading after a recent deployment when the earthquake, which she described as a "rolling shake that lasted for about 15 to 20 seconds,'' struck.

"Children were screaming looking for parents,'' Skoglund said. "It just broke our hearts to see such fear in everyone's faces. Everyone has remained out of buildings and moved into tents. The police are not allowing cars on the roads and the city has emptied out about 75 percent.''

In her report to Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder, she said the city is without power.

4 nurses and their support team leader have been in Nepal for the last 10 days, treating hundreds victims of the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck April 25.

Most of their time has been spent in remote mountain villages, northwest of the capital of Kathmandu, that were devastated by the first quake, which killed more than 7,000 people and injured thousands more.   Some of the territory is so treacherous, the group must rely on air transportation.

"Every two days they’re in six-seat helicopters flying in landing in villages that don’t have landing pads," said Van Gorder.  "In fact, in one rescue they were bringing a man up 3,000 feet and the helicopter flew down and landed on a little patch of grass."

Van Gorder also said in some situations, providing care to the Nepalese has been challenging.

"They have minimal surgical capabilities because they’re in these villages and they really can’t do that."

Three other members of the Scripps Health contingent -- Tim Collins, Jan Zachry, Debra McQuillen -- reported that they were awaiting for a helicopter that would fly them out of the village of Kharibot when the earthquake struck.

The helicopter that was going to fetch them was damaged in the quake, so they'll have to wait where they are.

According to Scripps, the Collins, Zachry, McQuillen team has treated more than 600 patients so far. Skoglund and Miller have treated around 450 patients.

"There are literally lines of dozens to 100 or more patients lining up to be cared for," said Van Gorder.

While the Scripps team continues on their mission, a Marine helicopter based at MCAS Miramar was reported missing in Nepal.

The UH-1Y Huey, with two Nepalese soldiers and six U.S. Marines on board, disappeared over the town of Charikot, according to a statement from Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command.

The Marines, attached to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 at Camp Pendleton, were performing a humanitarian mission at the time, Eastburn said.

Additional U.S. forces are responding to the emergency, he said.

"My heart sank when I heard," said Van Gorder.  "I hope the helicopter is down but safe."

The team still has 10 days remaining of their mission.  They are scheduled to return May 22nd.

"They’re going to be exhausted," said Van Gorder.  "But, they'll probably come back as we did from Haiti and Katrina, thinking it was the most rewarding experience of their lives."

The quake Tuesday was measured at magnitude-7.3, and reportedly killed around 70 people.

Van Gorder said he's still trying to determine if a 2nd team is needed.

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