Scottish dog handler helps Nepal aid effort

Gary Carroll and Diesel at work in Kathmandu. Picture: Contributed
Gary Carroll and Diesel at work in Kathmandu. Picture: Contributed
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TRAWLING through dust and rubble in a desperate attempt to find survivors, a Scots dog handler faced “total destruction” when he flew out to help victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal.

Gary Carroll and his five-year-old springer spaniel Diesel travelled more than 4,500 miles from Aberdeenshire on 26 April to aid the relief effort in the South Asian nation.

They were joined John Ball and his search dog Darcy. Picture: Contributed

They were joined John Ball and his search dog Darcy. Picture: Contributed

The 44-year-old, from Torphins, is one of six firefighters from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) helping victims of the 7.8-magnitude quake, as part of the UK government’s 60-strong search and rescue team.

Gary said: “It was all a rush when the call came. I was looking forward to being able to help people and putting the training Diesel’s had into action.

“On the ground we’ve seen total destruction in some of the outlying areas of Nepal. Most buildings are affected in some way. I saw a lot of buildings that have collapsed.

“We’ve also seen buildings partially collapsed and landslides. A lot of people are under tents or covers because they are too scared to be in the ­buildings.”

On the ground we’ve seen total destruction

Gary Carroll

More than a week on from the earthquake which struck near the capital Kathmandu on 25 April, 39 out of 75 districts have been affected and at least 46 aftershocks felt.

Dogs like Diesel are trained to find human scent through the rubble and then their bark or body language will let their trainer know that there is someone there.

Gary, 44, said: “Diesel and I were tasked to search two buildings. Diesel worked well – he covered the whole area and did what he was trained to do. When I send Diesel into a building I’m always concerned he could get injured. But that’s the job. We always size up a building before we send the dogs in and always give them a good check-up after a search.”

Gary was previously deployed to the 2009 earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, and to Christchurch, in New Zealand, in 2011, but the trip to Nepal was a first for Diesel.

He added: “We’ve got a very close bond. We’ve been through this together. I’m looking out for him and I think he’s looking out for me.”

Other Scottish firefighters on the ground include Martin Vardy from Aberdeen, Martyn Ferguson from Turriff in Aberdeenshire, John Aitchison from Gourdon near Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire and Daniel Gall and Steven Nicholl from Forfar in Angus.

SFRS chief officer Alasdair Hay said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is proud to have highly-professional firefighters who are willing and able to help and support the Nepalese people.

“Our thoughts are clearly with the thousands of people affected by this terrible disaster. We have appointed a dedicated fire officer who is responsible for maintaining contact with our staff over in Nepal as well as keeping their families up to date.”

Nepalese leaders have warned that the death toll could hit 10,000 as thousands are still unaccounted for after the quake which is Nepal’s worst in more than 80 years.

Other Scots in Nepal include Dr Richard Lyon, a consultant in emergency medicine for NHS Lothian, who said the resilience, friendship and tenacity of the Nepalis was “staggering”.

In a message to colleagues in Edinburgh yesterday, Dr Lyon said: “We have been using helicopters to access remote villages, some now completely cut off from the outside world by landslides.

“When we land, we can be overwhelmed by villagers as the first rescue teams they’ve seen.

“The breathtaking natural beauty of the Himalayas is awe inspiring from the air but the overwhelming, destructive power of Mother Nature is seen on the ground.”