Baptist World Aid in Urgent Race to Reach Pakistan

BWAid Rescue 24, the special search and rescue team of Baptist World Alliance, continues to aid earthquake victims of the South Asia quake.
( [email protected] ) Oct 13, 2005 09:28 PM EDT

BWAid Rescue 24, the special search and rescue team of Baptist World Alliance, continues to aid earthquake victims of the South Asia quake.

"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.

He said the 7.6 earthquake "was so strong that it tore the mountain in two parts, and dozens of houses fell into a cleft 50 to 100 meters deep."

The rescue team's offer to help was accepted by the Pakistan government at 10a.m. on the day of the quake. Ten rescue specialists and two rescue dogs began travelling to the site from their base in Budapest, carrying two metric tons of equipment.

They arrived at the airport in Islamabad on Monday afternoon but had to wait for hours due to roads being impassable. In addition, heavy hailstorms and a lack of helicopters have delayed Pakistan authorities taking the rescue teams to the disaster sites immediately.

BWAid Rescue24 was first taken to the (Gali) Bagh area, which is 30-50 kilometers away from the earthquake’s epicentre, where they searched a dormitory with some 60 students that were believed to be stuck in the building.

"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."

Currently, the most urgent needs at the moment seems to be tents, heavy blankets, basic food and medicines.

David Gal, a senior relief officer of Hungarian Baptist Aid, a partner to BWAid, said "nights are becoming colder here in the mountains and many people have no place to sleep."

He continued: "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"

A Medical and Relief Team also left for Pakistan from Hungary yesterday. Two of the best rescue specialists from North Carolina, who were trained in Hungary, joined BWAid Rescue24.

Two experienced doctors and two relief workers from Hungary also went to work with the first team that had left. They will provide medical care and assess ways on how Baptists can get involved in helping victims of the quake. To provide aid and relief, the teams took US$20,000.

30,000 to 50,000 are believed to have been killed with at least 20 million homeless.

"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."