Ten years ago: operation in a foggy night

Fast humedica intervention after earthquake in Italy

by Heike Knauff-Oliver,  2019/04/11

Monday night before Easter 2009, the earth in the Abruzzo region started to tremble: 300 fatalities, hundreds of thousands of homeless and injured people. Help was needed immediately, but the land route to Italy was too long and too insecure. The journey by airplane required a special permit and an experienced pilot. The latter was quickly found: the Allgäu entrepreneur Stefan Unzicker, who owned a small plane, was ready to help at once. That same Monday evening he flew off with the three-person team of one coordinator and two humedica practitioners after having received the permit of the Federal Armed Forces at the Kaufbeuren military airfield.

Stefan Unzicker remembers this 'foggy night undertaking' very clearly: "It was dark and cramped aboard. I could see the lights down on the ground up to Innsbruck, then visual flight was no longer possible. The atmosphere was quite tense. Only when I distributed a round of fruit bars, the anxiety started to diminish." he recollects.

The first-aid workers had brought medicaments and only the strictly necessary dressing materials for the emergency intervention. After flying for about two hours, the airplane with the emergency responders landed in Pescara, on the outskirts of the earthquake region. "That was quite well as the intervention team was able to buy further bandaging materials here. It had not been possible to transport much of it in the Cessna." reports Unzicker. The next day he flew back to the Allgäu while the humedica team started treating the victims.

Quick help after the earthquake in Italy 2009: The humedica team Sebastian Seibert, coordinator Markus Köhler, pilot Stefan Unzicker and the two physicians Prof. Dr. Bernd-Dieter Domres and Tobias Kees. Photo: xlfoto/Harald Langer

The destruction caused by the earthquake was most evident in the province capital L’Aquila. Most organisations therefore focused on this area. Following the humedica mission "to remember the forgotten ones" the team took care of the village Tossicia 40 kilometers away. Also here many people had been injured, many houses had been destroyed and hundreds of inhabitants had lost their homes.

By and by relief goods and food could be distributed in cooperation with local partners in the area. In the following months humedica assisted to rebuild a community centre in Tossicia, which provided a place for exchange, consolation and community for the villagers. This long-term relief project for the approximately 1.500 inhabitants of the village was finally completed in 2014. The economically weak village would not have been able to finance this investment.

"I would help anytime if such a situation arises again." we are told by Stefan Unzicker, the Allgäu pilot and entrepreneur (Moving Terrain company): "We are well off and live in relative safety. We have the possibilities to help and we should make use of them."

The community centre in Tossicia. Photo: humedica

Like 2009 in Central Italy humedica engages in many disaster and crisis regions all over the world. In order to bring new hope to many people in need, we depend on your support. Please continue to help us to help!

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