Julie's team in Pakistan
Rescue mission in Pakistan
By Julie Ryan
Julie Ryan helped rescue survivors of the earthquake which struck Pakistan in October 2005. She lives in Welburn near York. Her account of her time in Muzaffarabad is both shocking and inspiring.
Julie was part of an International Rescue Corps advance team which flew from East Midlands Airport the day the earthquake struck. She arrived in Muzaffarabad to face the daunting task of trying to free people trapped in collapsed buildings.
"The earthquake struck at about 5am GMT on Saturday 8th October 2005 which was about 9am Pakistan time. We got a call at about 7am from the Department for International Development, who said they were putting a British team together. The news reports were quite sketchy but by 11am all hell broke loose. Everyone mobilised and by 3pm we were at East Midlands Airport with our equipment, waiting for a flight out.
Julie and other IRC team members in Paki
"We arrived in Islamabad, and were met by the British High Commissioner who briefed us about where we were going. They wanted to send an advance party to Muzaffarabad. I was in the advance party.
"The pilot flew us over the city to see the extent of the damage; I’ve honestly never seen anything like it in my life. It was sheer devastation, complete destruction. It’s like taking York and completely destroying it. The roads were destroyed, streets littered with buildings.
"Resources on the ground were very stretched. The first place we went to search was a school. We were met by the headmaster who said he’d just taken roll call and still had the register in his hand. He was walking out of the building when the earthquake hit. He told us that he’d got 700 names on the register, but could only account for 200. That’s what greeted us, so I took a deep breath and thought, OK we have a job to do, this is why we’re here.
"At that school there was absolutely no sign of life at all.
"Your emotional response is that there must be somebody; you desperately wish that there is somebody. When you don’t find anything, you wonder if you’ve missed something. But unfortunately there was nobody rescued at that school, which was a pretty bad start.
"The next day we got called to a hotel behind a bank. People told us they’d heard a voice, so one of our guys took off his head torch and put it into the hole and a hand grabbed it! It scared us all! We eventually found a way in and had to hand dig the boy out. In this instance, he walked away. We never even got his name as he was whisked off.
"Rescuing someone gives you a kick because you think there’s got to be others. It boosts the whole team.
Imran after being rescued
"On Wednesday, four days after the earthquake struck, we were flown by helicopter to a remote village 10k from Muzaffarabad, it was totally destroyed. Some locals said they’d heard a voice and took us to a three storey religious school. It was now all at ground level. They said someone was in there and pointed to a hole.
"I crawled in on my stomach for about 10ft, the team leader told me to shout hello so I did. A voice said hello back, very loudly. I thought someone must be shouting from outside to I called for silence and said hello again. Again a voice shouted hello back, and then a different voice shouted hello too.
Maqbool being rescued
"I thought oh my God, we’ve not only got one, there’s two in here. So we set about trying to get them out. We had to tunnel in, the roof was moving and it was pretty dodgy. It took three and a half hours to get him out. The first boy, Imran, wouldn’t come out without a biscuit. The second, Maqbool, was totally distraught. He was covered in blood from head to toe and we thought he was injured. But he told us it was his brother’s blood. He had been lying next to the body of his brother for four days.
"The religious leader was in tears, of joy and sadness. He said to me “I’ve lost all of my children, but I’ve got these two”.
"We left £9,000 of equipment, our tents, food and water filtration gear as we felt that this was the least we could do to help the people in the affected area.
Julie Ryan, International Rescue Corps
last updated: 12/06/2008 at 17:46
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