An Asfordby rescue dog handler has spent the past week in earthquake-struck Nepal as part of the UK’s International Search and Rescue team (UKISAR).
Chris Pritchard (50) - one of six firefighters from the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service - and his eight-year-old border collie, Abby, have been helping the search and rescue mission for victims of the disaster.
The Leicestershire firefighters formed part of the Government’s UKISAR team which has been playing a key role in the relief effort since being deployed to Nepal.
Over a week on from the quake that hit near the capital city of Kathmandu, 39 districts have been affected and at least 46 aftershocks felt.
Chris said: “I’m out here because I want to help people – that’s what’s driving me - and I’m really proud to be part of the team.
“I got Abby when she was a puppy and this is her first search and rescue deployment.
“When we’re on a mission we have to rest the dogs every 20 minutes because of the nature of the work. They’re trained to bark when they find someone alive - they can tell the difference between someone who is alive or dead through their scent.”
He added: “As well as being a search and rescue dog Abby is a family dog so we have a strong connection – that trust is vital because I’m asking her to go out into really difficult terrain.
“Abby and the other dogs who’ve been deployed have their own kit. She has a flotation vest, boots, a cool jacket for when it’s hot and a fleece for when it’s cold. I have a lifting harness to get her down into a void or if she’s working at a height.”
It’s believed around 6,000 people have died following the 7.8 magnitude quake, which hit on Saturday, April 25. Rescue workers are still flying in, with emergency staff desperately trying to reach survivors trapped in remote areas.
The UK is playing a leading role in responding to the disaster and is currently the largest donor (£22.8m) to the relief operation.