My Mission in the Earthquake Zone (Part 1)

by Steffen Richter, 2007/09/25

Prof. Dr. Dr. Domres was in Pisco for humedica.

„As the walls of the house began to shake, I threw my two three- and four- year old children out of the window. My mother and father were buried with me in the collapsing house.” With this statement, a Peruvian woman tries to put into words the indescribable. As the ground in Peru began to shake around 6:40 in the evening on August 15th, the people experienced the strongest earthquake in thirty years. Many people were buried, countless houses totally destroyed. Humedica was in action after only a few hours. As part of the team was Prof. Dr. Dr. Bernd Domres, who has agreed to describe his personal experiences for us in a multi-part “journal”.

„The epicenter of the earthquake was near the city of Pisco, which lies about 280 km south of Lima. Around 260,000 people live there. After our arrival in Lima the humedica team met with the personnel of the local organization „Associacion Cristiana De Jovenes Del Peru” (CVJM) and immediately started on the way to Pisco. It usually takes about three hours to drive from Lima to Pisco; today it took almost nine. The earthquake had broken away parts of the southern end of this important and well-known communication road “Panamericana”. About 50 km before Pisco, the two-lane highway was so broken up that only one lane was drivable. Ambulances carrying the injured to Lima had the right-of-way. As we finally arrived, we were witness to unimaginable destruction.

The earthquake had destroyed almost everything. 530 dead, 1,300 injured, and around 70% of the houses destroyed, that is the horrible result of the earthquake. In Pisco we meet the head surgeon of the state hospital: ‘I was in the middle of operating when the earthquake started. The OP was totally destroyed, I never saw my patient alive again. He died just like many others in the totally destroyed hospital of Pisco. Only the newly built building which isn’t yet in service stayed up. We’ve started to work there. We don’t have any electricity or water and personnel are lacking. You and your team are most welcome here. Please begin your work as soon as possible – there are so many injured who must be treated.’

To begin our work, in addition to the rescuing of the injured and the life-saving first aid, drinking water must be acquired. The entire city has been destroyed and is covered in dust. Through this dust we must treat many people with breathing problems and lung infections. Apart from that, people are suffering from fractures, contusions and a form of trauma typical for those who have been buried. Most of the injured will be taken to the Hospital Nacional Rebagliatti in Lima, as it is the largest and best hospital in Peru. In order to lessen the likelihood of being stormed from those seeking help, it has been sealed off by a large fence and iron gate, and is being guarded by several security guards.

The personnel in the hospitals are accomplishing the superhuman and yet remain friendly and calm. The doctors and nurses don’t let anyone see the enormous stress and extreme physical strain which they are under. They always treat the patients calmly and in a friendly manner. For the Peruvian, personal contact with others is very important. In order to help give the victims a little security, signs have been hung up in many places which say “Abrazos gratis”, which can be translated as “Free Hugs” – hugs are given both before and after an examination – and it does everyone in such a situation good.” (To be continued)

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