Both military and civilian organizations are rallying together to assist in the wake of the earthquake in Nepal

By Susan Keating
April 27, 2015 08:30 PM
William Johnson

The international rescue community is banding together in a race against time to assist in the wake of Saturday’s devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, a Pentagon official tells PEOPLE.

“China, India, Japan, Israel, Great Britain, everyone,” says Marine Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool, a Defense Department spokesman. “Everyone is trying to help as much as possible, since time is of the essence.”

Both military and civilian organizations are rallying, Pool says.

Military units from two outside countries – the United States and India – took an early international lead when troops on training exercises were on the ground when the quake struck.

One 13-member Army Special Forces team was on Mt. Everest for high altitude training and immediately began searching for survivors on hiking trails and at the mountain’s base camp. Another 13-member team was near the epicenter in Kathmandu and set up shelters for survivors.

“A lot of the team members have medical training, which is being put to use,” Pool says.

Another military group – a unit from the Indian Army Expedition Team – was hit by an avalanche while training on Mt. Everest. The unit’s equipment was buried in snow, but the soldiers survived and quickly launched into rescue mode.

“They helped in recovering 19 dead bodies and 61 injured persons,” a spokesman from the Embassy of India says. The team’s medical officer treated international mountaineers, while the team gave its own rations to survivors.

“People are stranded,” Indian Army Major Ranvir Jamwal told an Indian television station. “Many climbers are cut off.” A number are suffering from head injuries.”

Other military organizations, including the Israeli Defense Forces, dispatched expert searchers and medical teams. Civilians are racing to assist as well.

Members of the Fairfax County, Virginia Urban Search and Rescue team, along with six rescue dogs, boarded Air Force cargo planes, and are being followed by compatriots in Los Angeles, California.

Doctors Without Borders, an international medical assistance group, is sending multiple teams following an initial airborne damage assessment.

One DWB team was rerouted back to India after aftershocks prevented their plane from landing. The group expects to resume efforts to reach Kathmandu, a spokesman tells PEOPLE. Another team went into Nepal by road from India, while others are traveling to outlying areas.

“We are doing whatever we can to help,” says spokesman Tim Shenk, who notes that medics, a midwife, a surgeon and anesthesiologist are among those going in.

Additional rescue units will continue to stream in with the growing need for food, water, shelter, medical care and other items.

Here’s how you can help.