Date: 8 October 2005
8 October 2005, at 8.50 am – A strong earthquake measuring 7.6 in magnitude hits the Kashmir region, on the border between Pakistan and India. The epicentre is 95 km north of Islamabad.
The victims come to over 73,000 in Pakistan, 1,300 in India (though bodies are still being extracted from beneath the debris over one month later), with over 75,000 injured, almost 4 million evacuated and more than 3.3 million left homeless. Most of the victims are feared to be children and teenagers. The worst hit areas are located in mountainous zones that are difficult to reach.
The United Nations define the earthquake as “the worst nightmare”, although the destruction is too far from television cameras to be broadcast around the world.
On 9 October, the day after the quake, the President of Pakistan Pervez Musharaff launches an appeal to the international community: aid is needed, the number of victims is growing by the hour. Weather conditions are terrible, hindering aid and making living conditions worse for the survivors.
There is debris everywhere, entire cities - such as Balakot - have crumbled, and it is not hard to find people digging or others building their own future home. The aid in arrival is to be transported from the airport to the various cities, and helicopters and trucks are needed. Once in Islamabad, international organisations wait for vehicles to transport medicines and foodstuffs, which risk being mislaid along the way. The roads are impassable. In addition to the usual traffic, made up of little coloured vans that tear along dirt tracks, the roads have been blocked by the authorities due to falling debris.
From on-site surveys and relief operations, it has immediately become clear that the proportions of the disaster are much greater than that initially presumed. Three quarters of the hospitals and health facilities have been destroyed or seriously damaged; over 10,000 school buildings destroyed and more than 17,000 students are feared dead beneath collapsed schools.
According to the official death toll, there are over 73,000 victims in Pakistan and 1,300 in India. Most of the victims are feared to be children and teenagers.
The mission of countries that have arrived in Kashmir is to provide shelter, food and medical care to the over 3 million quake survivors.
Many people have suffered fractures that risk degenerating into serious infections and have developed pneumonia due to the severe weather and lack of shelter.
Under the coordination of the Department of Civil Protection and upon Government initiative, Italy provides assistance to the population, which particularly needs medical care. The first aid arrives on 11 October, dispatched by the various regional Civil protection units (Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Trentino Alto Adige, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and the Marches). The Department team is already in Islamabad when the Military air force C130 arrives, and has to identify, in liaison with the Pakistani authorities, the best place to concentrate Italian relief.
It is assigned to the city of Mansehra, with 200,000 inhabitants, located 150 kilometres north of Islamabad. The earthquake has claimed 10,000 people. Housing is mostly damaged, as are schools and hospitals. However, thousands of survivors from destroyed mountain villages are arriving there. A reception centre is set up for evacuees, next to which a field hospital is installed.
The facility is made up of 5 blocks of tents:
1. Triage – registration area: all patients are registered and sent to the appropriate treatment section having passed through triage.
2. Fully-equipped emergency department – laboratory for blood analysis, a unit for testing vital parameters, and computerised radiological equipment.
3. Out-patients’ area – medical examinations, bandaging/plastering of injuries and minor surgery.
4. Operating theatre – made up of two blocks. The first functioning as an operating theatre, the other as a recovery room. Two operations are carried out a day on average.
5. Pharmacy – situated in two adjacent tents.
The hospital area is comprised of 13 tents, for a total of 200 beds. A tent facing Mecca, to be used as a mosque, has also been set up.
On 21 October, the Civil Protection of the Marches region sends new aid for the field hospital: equipment and instrumentation, including a small operating theatre, an adequate supply of medicines, instrumentation for communication and comfort supplies, accompanied by 23 components of the Marches mission.
The Italian team, made up of a group from the Department, one from the Marches mission and a group from the Italian Red Cross, is supported by Pakistani medical staff and local technicians.
The medical team present is composed of surgeons, anaesthetists, internists, an orthopaedic specialist, a gynaecologist, and a paediatrician, assisted by nursing staff and radiology technicians. Most of the patients treated have pathologies caused by the earthquake, so the operations carried out regard mostly trauma to the lower and upper limbs and to the head. Fractured lower limbs represent almost 50% of cases. Later, patients with illnesses not directly related to the earthquake are examined.
Many are found to have serious pathologies related to the cold.
The program of the Department foresees the presence of Italian medical teams until January 2006, when the hospital will be donated to the local authorities, to be inserted in the “Mansehra Hospital Complex”, which also includes the regional hospital made partially unfit for use by the earthquake.
Between 17 October and 21 November approximately 3,000 people came to the field hospital for medical assistance.