Saturday 8th October
At approximately 0708hrs (0608hrs GMT.) a call was received by Willie McMartin from DFID. It stated that a large earthquake of approx 7.4 – 7.6 had struck Pakistan.
Damage was reported in Islamabad and into the North of the Kashmir area. Some reports as yet unconfirmed of people killed and trapped.
By approximately 1203hrs (1103hrs GMT) all the team were mobilised to meeting places or to Stansted Airport. At approximately 1300hrs (1200hrs GMT) confirmation that the mission was a go was received from DFID. By 1350hrs (1250hrs GMT) the destination for the team was changed to East Midlands Airport and all those in transit were informed. Ray Gray was the first to arrive at the airport and he established contact with the DHL staff on duty. By 1830hrs (1730hrs GMT) all IRC team members were airside. By 2310hrs (2210hrs GMT) the team from DFID had arrived and a team leaders briefing was held.
It was reported that mines could be a serious threat within the areas we may be deployed (Kashmir). Other problems may come from Al-Qaeda and or criminal activity such as kidnap or looting. Car bombs and the volatile nature of the area are also to be a major consideration. Military escorts should be available at all times. Night work would probably not be allowed and only travel in convoy would be safe.
Sunday 9th October 2005
0010hrs (2310hrs GMT) the incoming plane has landed but it requires a fresh crew and fuelling. 0205hrs (0105hrs GMT) and all are on board but due to a problem with the flight plan departure is still delayed. The idea was to fly the most direct route over Iran and Afghanistan but the required special permission was holding up the clearance of the plane. 0305hrs (0205hrs GMT) push back and after a short delay and taxi we take off. 1030hrs and we change the time to 1430hrs (0930hrs GMT). 1447hrs (0947hrs GMT) Landed and taxi to the arrival stand. By 1530hrs (1030hrs GMT) the team has cleared immigration, the equipment is unloaded and arrangements for onward transport by helicopter to Kashmir are in hand.
The team were to be taken to the area with the largest reported loss of life, Muzaffarabad.
1635hrs (1135hrs GMT) and the first section to move forward have boarded a HUGH1E helicopter and are ready to go.
1650 hrs (1150hrs GMT) and the engine is started.
They are accompanied by the military adviser from the High Commission, who is a serving marine officer. They are advised that this should be a 40 minute flight at around 500ft.
1651 (1151hrs GMT) Sections 2 and 3 have all equipment cleared and ready for deployment with next section forward or as required.
1659hrs (1159hrs GMT) and section 1 take off. As they near the area they see that many villages are all but totally destroyed and that the city has huge areas totally flattened.
1730hrs (1230hrs GMT) Section 3 takes the equipment to the diplomatic compound whilst section 2 remain at the airport ready for their flight to the disaster zone.
By 1800hrs (1300hrs GMT) Section 1 have landed and almost immediately have a confirmed site at which it is reported sounds of life have been heard and the team move out to a school site.
They arrive at the “BILERT, SECONDARY SCHOOL NO 1″ to find that 500 children are reported trapped within the structure.
Following an initial reconnaissance one possible very weak sound may have been heard.
1940hrs (1440hrs GMT) One adult and one child have been located and confirmed as dead. A body part, probably part of a leg has also been located.
Recovery of bodies will eventually be carried out by specialist body recovery teams once the search and rescue phase closes.
2000hrs (1500hrs GMT) two other bodies have been located and marked.
2230hrs (1730hrs GMT) with no further contacts the search has been closed down. The transport has not returned and the weather has turned cold. The team decide to light a fire whilst they consider what to do next. They had been abandoned in an unknown area with no real knowledge of how to return to base. After some time collecting wood and with little luck in setting the fire a local stepped forward and takes over. With the help of a candle he has the fire going in less than 5 minutes and also shows how friendly the local population are. Once the fire is started the local stamps it out and states that it is not good enough for the section and invites them to join him and the remainder of his family at their fire in the garden next door. They are given seats around a large fire and soon see that his father is injured and lying on a bed. They find that he has 3 breaks in his lower left leg. It has been crudely set.
By 2255hrs (1755hrs GMT) it has been decided that the section will try and walk back to base at the helicopter landing site. The locals estimate that with their help the section can walk back within an hour and they will accompany them to ensure their safety and help with the equipment. After a short distance they make contact with a local car driver who will take them back to the base camp.
Monday 10th October 2005
0005hrs (1905hrs GMT 9th Oct) All the team are safely back at the base camp.
0400hrs (2300hrs GMT) Section 3 depart for the airport and join up with section 2.
0640hrs (0140hrs GMT) Section 1 are told their departure is imminent. 0645hrs (0145hrs GMT) they have a guide and a vehicle and are on their way back into town.
0700hrs (0200hrs GMT) they are in attendance at the National Bank. There were reports of people being heard but on arrival this is unconfirmed. They start work and find that the army has already been working on this site. They push into the heart of the structure and carry out a sound, CO2 and visual search.
0830hrs (0330hrs GMT) Section 2 take off for Muzaffarabad. By 0835hrs (0335hrs GMT) all voids possible have been searched and entry has been forced into the area of the strong room and managers office. No live locations have been identified, 6 bodies have been located and the army have arrived and taken over the task of body removal. They are unable to push further into the structure without our heavy equipment. 0915hrs (0415hrs GMT) Section 2 arrive in Muzaffarabad and make their way to join up with section 1 at base camp. 0940hrs (0440hrs GMT) a local comes and asked the 2 members to go with him to a nearby building where live sounds are reported.
Ray and Willie go on foot and by 0945hrs (0445hrs GMT) are on scene and have a confirmed sounding. Whilst Ray contacts base by radio and requests the sections return a small hole is cut into the floor slab and Willie puts his head under. A hand almost immediately touches him. Whilst the locals enlarge the hole and with Ray’s help knock out the bars, Willie starts a tunnel under the slab from the side. Progress is rapid and by approx 0952hrs (0452hrs GMT) the casualty has been reached and he was removed. After a short medical inspection by Ray and Willie it was confirmed that the boy of approx 13 years of age has only a bruised left hip/thigh and he was carried from the site by a relative. No further casualties are located.
1000hrs (0500hrs GMT) Section 2 is deployed to the Number 1 Pilot High School on the far side of Muzaffarabad. This was a single storey building and parents reported hearing voices recently, which was to be approximately 18 hrs prior to the sections arrival. 900 – 1200 pupils had been in the structure at the time of collapse. 1015hrs (0515hrs GMT) Section 1 were almost immediately called back to the building at the rear of the HABIB BANK, believed to be a small hotel, and a full search of the building was carried out.
1100hrs (0600hrs GMT) a call was received from the military to take the team to the RIZWAN PUBLIC SCHOOL. It is nearby and only bodies are found. The locals confirmed that no sounds had been heard for around 20hrs. The section was then moved to the WOMANS DEGREE COLLEGE at approximately 1140hrs (0640hrs GMT). Once again they find no evidence of live casualties.
By 1235hrs (0735hrs GMT) the section have returned to base camp.11 live casualties had been located and rescued by international teams within the first 24hrs.
2100hrs (1600hrs GMT). IRC is asked to provide 2 large sections to go out to priority sites.
2135hrs (1635hrs GMT) an Army Officer arrives and informs us that the transport is available and that both sections will travel by bus to the military hospital. 2200hrs (1700hrs GMT) all are at the ward opposite the Para Medical Centre. The hospital director informs Brigadier Saleem that no one is alive within this area.
Tuesday 11th October 2005
0003hrs (1903hrs GMT) only bodies were located. 0030hrs (1930hrs GMT) work stopped and the two sections meet up and make their way to the transport and return to base camp. 0230hrs (2130hrs GMT) a team leaders meeting has been called for 0700hrs (0200hrs GMT). During the night a few gunshots had been heard with a very few rounds passing close to the camp. It was believed that these had been strays rather than aimed shots.
The team leaders‘meeting was informed that 18,800 were reported dead at that time. The scale of the incident in geographical and human size was growing beyond all original estimates.
0900hrs (0400hrs GMT) A section was requested for deployment with the team from Lincolnshire Fire Service. They would go to the market area of the town. A request for a member to form part of a UN assessment team was also required at this time. 10.00hrs (0500hrs GMT) and most of the team were out. Ray was being sent out by the UN to do some building assessments in parts of the town that have not yet been reached with two other people from different teams. 11.10hrs (0600hrs GMT) and the assessment team are finally ready to go. Ray has been given three members of BIRD plus one member of Canis along with their dog and a nurse. Section 1 returned from the market area at 1230hrs (0730hrs GMT) and reported that the area was very unstable. Many bodies had been located but no live finds. During the afternoon approximately 6 inches of rain fell within 90 minutes. This flooded our camp but was a mini disaster for those in the streets who had no shelter. It could also be observed that on the hills around this had fallen as snow further hampering access to the areas and making conditions almost intolerable for the local population.
Wednesday 12th October 2005
0600hrs (0100hrs GMT) IRC is requested to have 2 sections available at 0700hrs (0200hrs GMT) to travel by helicopter to outlying villages. They will work with team members from other units. 0700hrs (0200hrs GMT) both sections are ready and transport arrives.0745hrs (0245hrs GMT) both sections are away to the heliport where they are briefed and teamed with THW and I S A R.
Brigadier Saleem briefs Section 1 that they will be sent to Gharhi Dopattia which is a small town surrounded by small villages, many of which are in the hills and inaccessible other than by foot. Gharhi Dopattia has a landing site for helicopters and the surrounding area is sending the injured to that location for evacuation.
1100hrs (0600hrs GMT) the helicopter is in attendance and the section are on board with 4 soldiers.
1115hrs (0615hrs GMT) finally start up and away.
1130hrs (0630hrs GMT) Section 1 arrive at Gharhi Dopattia and meet with the military commander in the area.
Transport is arranged for the IRC section to travel to the hills whilst THW will support the doctor in treating casualties at the landing site and will also try to check any locations within the town.
The first location visited is Awanpatti which is totally destroyed. In Awanpatti they state that 70 were killed in the school, 65 injured, many serious with 4 dead in the next building, 16 are alive of which 7 are injured. Water is being collected from rainfall. Shelter and blankets are the most urgent need but food will be critical soon.
Similar damage is found in Bundadaigaim. In Bundadaigaim locals state that no one is trapped but give the following figures for the assessment forms 374 dead and 610 injured. Injuries range from fractures, partial amputation, full amputation, internal injury and probably crush injury. The total population in the area is 6,000 and no food stores are left in the area. Shelter and blankets are the most urgent need as winter is coming and this location has already had snow. Water is being collected from rainfall and some small streams are available in the area.
The population of Sultanpur is reported as 150. 15 dead with 57 injured. 30 of those injuries are broken arms and legs. Food is none and water is almost nil. 15 are also suffering from sickness and diarrhoea. All 20 homes within the village are completely or partially damaged. Shelter, food and medical aid are required urgently. A water supply will require to be set up but in the short term some is available within walking distance.
All roads within the area of Bandi Hajam are blocked by landslides. It was reported that a total of 65 houses had been destroyed, 13 were dead, 65 injured, 600 had survived but there was no shelter or food. Most of the information was supplied in the area by a Government Official who lived there. Within the locality it was estimated that at least 2000 people would require shelter as an urgent need with food and medical attention following as a close secondary requirement.
At Gharhi Dopattia a Major was in charge of the airfield and gave the following figures as his official estimate. The population within 1 kilometre of the airfield was between 60,000 – 70,000. 3,000 were dead and 10,000 badly injured. At least 50% had minor injury which would require some medical attention. The reports in the area are that the Bagh valley is the worst location with the Jhelum valley also being badly damaged. Helicopter landing sites are available at the following locations, Awan Patti Bala, Kai manga, Koni Kot, Dopalla and Karali. 1640hrs (1140hrs GMT). Section 1 is picked up by an American Chinook and flown back to Muzaffarabad.
08.15hours (0315hrs GMT) Section2 now at the airfield waiting for the helicopter. The primary function is to carry out an assessment of the villages that they are going to. The section has been paired up with a German team called International Search and Rescue (ISAR).
They have been given a brief regarding the possibility of receiving a hostile reception. The military are very nervous and are insisting that the team go with a number of armed guards to accompany them. 12.40hrs (0740hrs GMT) and they are in the air. They have been told the helicopter will be back at 15.45hrs (10.45hrs GMT) and they need to be back at the drop zone to meet it. If they miss it they could be left for some time. The flight only took about 15mins. It was a bit cramped with 11 on it (this included the one solider that had been sent to guard us).
They landed at a small village in the mountains called Kahori. As they got off the helicopter Ray was approached by Volker Ziegler, the ISAR team leader, who said he was happy to place his team under Ray’s control. This was a big help. They were quickly surrounded by a large crowd who, although angry, were not hostile. A number of wounded people were being brought forward and they put some of those on to the helicopter to go back to Muzaffarabad.
Once the helicopter had gone they tried to find someone who spoke English then tried to find the village elder. Ray spoke with him while they walked up to the village. They were advised that voices had been heard in a building and that some local people were working on clearing the rubble to locate them. He also said that a lot of children were trapped in a school. When they got to the building where the voices had been heard they crawled in to the tunnel that the locals had made and called out. To their surprise two children’s voices shouted back. The building was a religious school and consisted of two floors which had pancaked. Like most of the village it had been built on a slope and was not the most stable of structures. There were other possible entry points but the existing tunnel seemed to offer the best chance.
It was hard work and the building did move a lot particularly when a Chinook helicopter flew over it. They could have propped it but there was so much rubble underneath us that it would have taken a good hour or so to reach the floor to get a solid prop in because of this we decided to press on and take the risk. A Red Cross helicopter landed at the village and Ray sent Annie down to pass a message on to the pilot who in turn would pass it on to the UN. The message was: Have two confirmed live casualties trapped in building. We needed some cutting equipment and water. May not be able to return at 15.45hrs. More time needed to complete rescue.
Annie made the dash to the Helicopter and not only passed the message but came back with two substantial first aid bags. The tunnel was difficult, more so as they did not have any cutting equipment. At 15.15hrs (1015hrs GMT) Ray decided to send a team member back with the helicopter to ensure a clear message got back to base. The rest of the team had decided to stay. They could not leave the two people in the building alive. John Brown drew the short straw and at 15.20 (1020hrs GMT) he took the message and went down to the landing area. The rest of the team then got on with the tunnel. They were really close to the children. They eventually reached them at 15.35hrs (1035hrs GMT). Both children were lying flat on a bed. The youngest one kept asking for a biscuit. There were actually three of them but the third one was dead.
They recovered the two children and Annie checked them both over. One was covered in blood and we initially thought he was hurt but the blood was from his brother (the one who had died). One of the children was quite alert and glad to be out while the other, who had been lying next to his dead brother for nearly 4 days was quite traumatised. Their names and ages were Imran 14 years old and Maqbool who was 16 years old. They decided to take them both back with the team for medical treatment. Ray sent a runner down to John B and asked him to hold the helicopter when it landed as we were on our way down with two casualties. The rescue was a really good joint team effort between ourselves and ISAR. All of the team were on a high. They got down to the landing area to wait for the helicopter which was now late.
There were a number of casualties around the landing area. Annie spoke to some of them and advised Ray that two of them needed to be evacuated as a matter of urgency.
They decided to try to make contact with base via the radio and mobile. After a few attempts they managed to get a message through which included their position and status.
Just as it was getting dark and they were resigned to the fact that they were going to be out overnight a helicopter appeared. John marshalled it in and they began to put on some of the wounded.
They eventually took off with 8 casualties plus carers, 10 team members and 1 soldier. It is reported that it did struggle to get off the ground and the only place left for Ray to sit (as he was last on) was the doors at the back.
When they landed the team got off but the casualties stayed on to go to Islamabad for treatment. A bus was waiting at the airfields to take them back to base. Once there Ray gave the following report to the UN:
The population of Kahori is reported as 2000. There are 200 dead with 52 injured some of those injuries are broken arms and legs. The water supply is contaminated and there is very little food. No building has escaped damage. Medical facility destroyed and no medical supplies. There is no Doctor but there are two nursing assistants. Within the locality it was estimated that at least1800 people would require shelter as an urgent need with food and medical attention following as a close secondary requirement.
They returned to the IRC base at 1750hrs (1250hrs GMT).
1810hrs (1310hrs GMT) the team leaders meet to discuss the day.
Four live casualties had been located today but many were dying from untreated injury and the cold. All agreed to the Military being advised that SAR was coming to an end. 2200hrs (1700hrs GMT) A meeting of all UK team leaders is called by DFID and it is decided to withdraw tomorrow. It is agreed that all small and large tents will be donated; some sleeping bags, tarpaulins and various other items may also be left.
Thursday 13th October 2005
0530hrs (0030hrs GMT) the team are all packed and ready for the drive to Islamabad. Word comes that we will not be allowed to travel without a police escort as there is a possibility of problems on the road. It is confirmed that the road is open and that we have transport available at this time. 1000hrs (0500hrs GMT) It will not be possible to get away until after the visit from some very high ranking officials from the UN and the United States. By early evening it is apparent that the team will not travel today and also the lorry for the kit is leaving. All the kit is unloaded and arrangements are put into place to have replacement vehicles available tomorrow. 1800hrs (1300hrs GMT) A team leaders meeting is held by the UN. THW SAR team are leaving tomorrow along with the UK teams and one Turkish team has already driven to Islamabad. A request to supply a water system for the UN to keep a potable water supply available for the camp and oncoming aid workers was also put to the meeting. IRC will supply an Arctic Clear system.
1900hrs (1400hrs GMT) UK team leaders meeting is held. Escorts have been guaranteed from both local and national police sources for the trip to Islamabad tomorrow morning. A replacement truck should arrive mid morning and departure should be as soon as possible after loading. The flights home should be on Saturday by charter flight.
Friday 14th October 2005
The team is ready to leave by 0430hrs (2330hrs GMT). 0900hrs (0400hrs GMT). The trucks have arrived and are loaded, the 6 buses are available and all that is required is our police escort. 0920hrs (0420hrs GMT) the police are in attendance and have a vehicle in front, armed guards on each bus and a vehicle behind. 0932hrs (0432hrs GMT) the convoy pulls out from base camp on the road to Islamabad. 1545hrs (1045hrs GMT) the convoy arrives in Islamabad and makes its way to the diplomatic compound where they will stay overnight. All were treated well and the staff could not have been more helpful.
Saturday 15th October 2005
1320hrs (0832hrs GMT) the team depart to the airport. This takes approximately 40 minutes with a further 45 minutes to clear the security and immigration. 1705hrs (1205hrs GMT) All equipment has been loaded and everyone boarded. Take off was at 1735hrs (1235hrs GMT) and the flight home was without problems.
Sunday 16th October 2005
0135hrs (0036hrs GMT) Landed and the arrival process started. 0320hrs (0220hrs GMT) All IRC members have started the road journey home with the last group arriving by 1600hrs (1500hrs GMT).
In closing this report, I feel that it must be stated that this was the most effective joint deployment to date. It was successful in saving life, it worked well with the UN on scene, and it proves that organisations can work together. DFID had their role very well defined and worked with all the teams. Much of this is in fact due to the individuals present from all the organisations being able to work together. This comes from a general trust in others and also from knowing each other, their strengths and weaknesses. It is the hope of the International Rescue Corps that this will continue to develop in the future.
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