Big Bucks In Disaster Rescue Business

DISIN RETROSPECT, the choice to book a ground-floor room was a sound one.

On Saturday, April 25, Andy Fraser lay in bed at the Rokpa Guest House, a modest three-story hotel in Nepal?s ancient capital, a city of 1 million sunk in a valley bordered by the Himalayan range. Fraser, a powerfully built 38-year-old British wilderness paramedic with a shaved head and prom?inent brow, had arrived a few weeks earlier for an extended business trip. A lifelong adventurer, he?d cut his teeth in London?s frenetic ambulance service, taught English at a salmon farm on an island in Chile, and spent six months treating snakebites at a clinic in rural Zambia. Recently, though, things had changed. He?d gotten engaged to another British paramedic, Becky, and with 40 approaching, he?d decided he needed to find what he called ?a real job.?

He?d sought out a position with Global Rescue, a private crisis-response firm, and in his first year on the job was dispatched to Nepal for the Himalayan climbing season. Global Rescue, which positions itself as a nimble eject button for those who frequently find themselves in tough spots, has in the past decade established a lucrative client base of large corporations, government organizations, hunters, and adventure travelers. The company has offices in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pakistan, and Thailand and a staff that might make some countries? armies blush. Its roster of 200-odd employees includes wilderness paramedics and former military personnel, some of them ex-Special Forces and Navy SEALs. The company?s Nepal posting is a busy one. Every spring, climbers and trekkers, many of them Global Rescue clients, come to test their mettle in the Himalayas. In 2013 and 2014, the company evacuated 28 clients and repatriated the remains of three more who perished in the mountains.

So far, though, it had been a quiet month. The mountaineers were acclimatizing on the lower regions of the Himalayas? iconic peaks: Makalu, Lhotse, and Mount Everest. Fraser?s job in Kathmandu was to assist members in need of medical care or evacuation. He called Becky around noon on Skype, as she was just waking up in England. The couple said good morning, then Fraser?s room began to move. It was a steady, primal roll, like a turbulent ocean. ?Holy shit,? Fraser told his fianc?e. ?I think there?s a fucking earthquake.? Then the Wi-Fi connection died. He fell off the bed, pulled on a shirt, hurtled out, and started banging on doors, yelling at his neighbors to leave the hotel. The floor lurched, the walls swayed. Fraser sprinted for the door, assuming the building was coming down. When he reached the lawn he started screaming up at the hotel?s windows: Get out! Staffers and guests ran out of the building and onto the lawn. Fraser was shocked the Rokpa didn?t collapse.

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