Time is running out for people still trapped by last weekend’s deadly earthquake in Pakistan, according to initial reports of a Baptist World Alliance rescue team.
“I have never seen anything like this, even though I have commanded 12 rescue operations after natural disasters from Colombia and Turkey to India and Iran,” Laszlo Pavelcze, commander of BWAid Rescue24, said in a satellite phone call from Pakistan reported by Bela Szilagyi of Hungarian Baptist Aid and Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid.
Measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, the earthqake “was so strong that it tore the mountain in two parts, and dozens of houses fell into a cleft 50 to 100 meters deep,” Pavelcze said.
BWAid Rescue24 is the special search and rescue team of Baptist World Alliance. The Pakistan government accepted the team’s offer for help at 10 a.m., Sunday, the day the quake.
By evening the 10 rescue specialists and two rescue dogs were enroute from their base in Budapest, with two metric tons of equipment.
The rescuers had to wait for hours after arriving at the airport in Islamabad Monday afternoon. Roads were impassable and heavy hailstorms and too few helicopters delayed Pakistani authorites from taking rescue teams immediately to the disaster site.
BWAid Rescue24 was taken to the (Gali) Bagh area, some 30-50 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake. They immediately started to search a dormitory where some 60 students were believed to be stuck in the building. The team works in two shifts day and night.
“People in the villages and the city here cheered when they saw us in our red rescue uniform,” Pavelcze said. “But at the same time they were hysterical because food ran out, they lost their homes, had no blankets and signs of malaria and other diseases began to be seen. They are afraid of being left alone, since relief teams are delayed by the devastated infrastructure.”
David Gal, a senior relief officer of Hungarian Baptist Aid, a partner to BWAid, said the greatest needs at the moment appear to be tents, heavy blankets, basic food and medicines.
“Nights are becoming colder here in the mountains and many people have no place to sleep,” Gal said. “The doctor and nurse on our team started to provide first aid, but we do not have much medical supplies on us now. Food is scarce and diseases attack. We are running against time to find survivors and take care of them once they are alive”
Another team, a Medical and Relief Team left Hungary on Wednesday, Oct. 12 for Pakistan. Baptist relief teams from North Carolina previously spent time in Hungary being trained in search and rescue techniques. North Carolina Baptists sent two of their best rescue specialists to join BWAid Rescue24.
Two other experienced doctors and two relief workers from Hungary went to work alongside the first team. They will focus on medical care and assessing the need and ways Baptists could get involved helping the victims of the disaster. The teams took $20,000 to purchase and provide aid and relief.
International experts and Pakistani authorities believe that the earthquake left some 30,000 to 50,000 dead and at least 2 million homeless.
Along with immediate humanitarian aid, BWAid and its partners want to also provide long-term assistance to the victims of the devastating earthquake,” Montacute said.
Montacute said he spoke with Gal in Bagh on Wednesday morning, and sensed the tension of the situation in his voice.
“We must do more,” said Montacute. “The search and rescue work will sadly soon be over, and now we need to help to provide shelter, water, food and medicines.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Donations designated to BWAid’s Earthquake appeal can be made at www.bwanet.org/bwaid.
Managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, Allen wrote more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure.