As one of the world’s leading network of international assistance providers, International Assistance Group (IAG) has a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of natural and manmade disasters. Rarely have these skills been more apparent than in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal on 25th April 2015. The alliance of assistance companies is proud of the way in which its Partners have overcome considerable challenges and spearheaded efforts to respond to this disaster. Through their care and dedication, they have played an active role in locating, evacuating and repatriating those in need and handled over 980 individual cases.
Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, the quake triggered a brutal wave of aftershocks, landslides and avalanches that left 8,600 dead and countless others injured, missing, homeless or stranded. The response of IAG Core Partners involved, such as AA International (HQ in Malaysia), Bupa Global Assistance (HQ in Denmark), Capita in the UK and On Call International in the United States, was immediate and effective. At the height of rescue efforts, in-country crisis teams were meeting several times per day to coordinate interventions and ensure that help reached those affected.
SOS International, the IAG Core Partner in the Netherlands, was able to repatriate 350 Dutch nationals thanks to close collaboration with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while Customer Care, part of Cover-More Group and the IAG Australian Partner, quickly had a team on the ground in Kathmandu to coordinate an airlift via their chartered Airbus A330 flight. In total, On Call International, the IAG Core Partner in the US handled 107 cases in Nepal including extractions from outside of Kathmandu (Lukla, Gorka and Langtang) and a repatriation of remains from base camp of Everest.
The long-established IAG Assistance Partner in India, East West Rescue, directly handled 35 cases, each involving between two and 100 people. They worked in close cooperation with the diplomatic representatives of the various nationals stranded in Nepal. Their actions were key, as Delhi was the closest destination providing specialised medical care to the injured following evacuations.
It goes without saying that these international organisations were reliant upon the invaluable support of the main local Partner in Nepal, Alpine Rescue Service. Since the quake, Alpine Rescue Service has responded to approximately 350 cases, executed around 300 evacuations and chartered over 14 flights. Their staff has gone above and beyond the call of duty to liaise with the Nepalese government and international agencies, and their local knowledge has made all the difference to Nepalese people and international travellers alike.
International Assistance Group is especially grateful for the work of Alpine Rescue Service in light of the immense operational challenges involved. The Nepalese communications networks and local infrastructure sustained significant damage during the disaster, and in some cases were eradicated altogether, which hampered efforts to locate and transport those in need. Damage to medical facilities, increased air traffic, the strain on the Nepalese government and poor weather conditions all exacerbated these difficulties, as did the remote nature of the terrain. Maintaining business continuity was a feat that required all of IAG Partners’ characteristic ingenuity; for example, Alpine Rescue Service kept its communications system running thanks to generators and solar and battery inverters.
As the immediate aftermath of the quake gives way to reconstruction work, IAG Partners’ thoughts are already turning to ways of fine-tuning their processes for the future. For example, Partners such as Customer Care in Australia have established multidisciplinary crisis teams to react to events as they unfold.
Above all, International Assistance Group is proud of the way in which its network has supported the vital disaster response on this occasion. “When put to the ultimate test, the ability to send and receive Partner referrals, exchange local knowledge and share technical expertise made all the difference to the people caught up in this disaster and we trust that we will be well-equipped to deal with whatever the future may hold,” said Cécile Hermetz, General Manager, International Assistance Group.
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