SCDF team in Nepal helps in tricky recovery operation

LAST Saturday was like any other Saturday: Mrs Suntali Tamang, 27, and her two children had left their rented home in Harisiddhi village to attend the 11am service at the nearby Faith Church.

Her husband, sculptor Kitab Tamang, also 27, had stayed home to rest as he had a slight fever.

Home is a three-room flat in a complex in the Lalitpur district south of Kathmandu, shared by the couple and their two children - a six-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son - together with eight other family members.

The decision to stay home proved fatal for Mr Tamang when tremors began rocking the town shortly after noon. "I was deep in shock," Mrs Tamang recalled in Nepali of the earthquake, the country's worst in decades. "I knew he was still at home resting when the earthquake happened."

Also home that day in the four-storey apartment block was their nephew Badal Tamang, 18.

The younger Mr Tamang, also a sculptor, recalled vividly the moment when the building began to shake. "I ran downstairs from the second floor and jumped out from a window," he said.

Moments later, the building lolled to one side and collapsed.

"When I was rushing down, I heard footsteps, so Kitab must have been awake," he said. "After I jumped out, I shouted 'Kitab, Kitab' but there was no answer."

That day, rescuers pulled five people from the building but did not find the elder Mr Tamang.

Yesterday, a Singapore-led rescue team recovered his body after conducting a controlled demolition of the building.

Mission commander Foo Yiing Kai, who is with the Singapore Civil Defence Force, said the recovery process was tricky as the body was sandwiched between the staircases of two floors, and partially submerged in water.

But the three-nation team, which included rescuers from Malaysia and Thailand, managed to pull the body out intact.

Meanwhile, a Royal Brunei Armed Forces team of eight flew into Nepal yesterday to join a Singapore Armed Forces medical team in Gokarna.

yanliang@sph.com.sg