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South Asia earthquake: evacuating the injured

17-10-2005 Feature

The ICRC is helping to evacuate those in urgent need of medical attention from some of the areas worst hit by the South Asia earthquake, with helicopters transporting patients to where they can better receive treatment. Story by ICRC delegate, Raza Hamdani


  © ICRC/J. Bjorgvinsson/PK-E-00003    
  Muzaffarabad's Neelum Stadium. Evacuation of wounded persons to Islamabad. 

The centre of Muzaffarabad's Neelum Stadium has been converted into a helipad where six helicopters can land at a time. The extent of the earthquake can be gauged by the amount of traffic delivering the injured from remote areas of the country.

On Friday and Saturday, ICRC helicopters brought in almost 100 people, including an eight year old boy whose left arm had been amputated. It is saddening to see so much misery and the ICRC's medic, Dr Jorma, remained busy with a constant stream of patients. 

Among those arriving at the stadium was a 13 year old girl who was lying next to an older woman. The girl, Nabila Bibi, was still terrified from her experiences and sat with her head bowed next to her badly-hurt mother, Sajida Bibi, who moaned now and again in pain.

Sajida was injured when the wall of the family's home in Chaman Kotli Nawab Khan in Muzaffarabad collapsed on her. When the earthquake happened the woman rushed to pick up her eighteen-month old son, Faisal, but she wasn't quick enough to escape before the walls fell down on top of them.

Although she took most of the impact, her son too was hurt.

Nabila, herself was in front of the house at the moment of the disaster after collecting water from the nearby river. Along with three of her friends she immediately flung herself to the ground.

" I saw my house crumble in front my eyes and screamed. I rushed to save my family. "

By the time she reached the house, her mother was unconscious and her little brother had suffered head injuries.

Breaking down in tears she says, " I cannot sleep anymore. I am scared there may be another earthquake and that this time I might die. "

Observing patients being put aboard the ICRC helicopter for further transport to hospitals in Rawalpindi, I wondered when the flow of injured people would stop. Will they ever be able to forget this ordeal and will I ever be able to forget the scenes I have witnessed here?

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