To the rescue: ER24 paramedics aid Cyclone Idai victims

Posted on 25 June 2019

When ER24 paramedics dropped everything to help Rescue SA bring aid to those affected by Cyclone Idai, their efforts received a special letter of commendation from the United Nations.

“I have rarely seen such courage and dedication by a non-governmental organisation,” says Sebastian Rhodes-Stampa, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator: Mozambique. “Their activities in search and rescue provided critical life-saving support to the affected population. Their actions saved lives.”

The UN recognised ER24 and Rescue South Africa members for their rescue efforts in Mozambique during the devastating Cyclone Idai which left hundreds dead and many more without homes. Rescue South Africa is a rescue organisation that responds to sudden-onset disasters nationally and internationally.

ER24’s Marcel Nordin and Brian Allchin, who travelled as part of Rescue South Africa, were among the medical and emergency workers who received the letter of commendation following the 10-day rescue mission.

“When we flew into Beira, Mozambique, it was evident from the air that the floodplain was huge,” explains Marcel. “It was going to be an extensive rescue mission not only from the rescue side of things but also with the delivery of aid, rebuilding and the distinct possibilities of disease outbreak that might follow.”

“Communication was also a huge problem due to the loss of electricity and cellular towers. The roads were also in a terrible condition with many being inaccessible due to the amount of debris left after the cyclone had passed through. Many buildings lay
in ruin, light poles and trees were blown over.”

Brian, who was aboard the Agusta 109 helicopter as a rescuer, gives a glimpse of what he was faced with as he was hoisted out onto the rooftops to airlift people to safety. “As I was lowered from the chopper, I saw a lot of faces looking up at me with fear and hope in their eyes. The challenge was that there were so many people waiting to be rescued, who do you choose? It was decided only children and their mothers would be rescued first. But I could see the relief on
their faces as I was lowered to rescue more people.”

Although the rescue teams were faced with multiple challenges from the beginning, they agree that knowing they’d made a difference made it all worthwhile. “As a whole, the people of Mozambique were very thankful and appreciative of our presence,” said Marcel.

“Some of the people had been sitting on the rooftops for four days without food or water. They had nothing but the wet clothes they were wearing,” says Brian. “I am a human being with feelings and emotions. The reality is that it could have been my family who needed the saving. I will continue doing this time and time again, not for recognition, but to be true to my calling to serve others.”

Peter van der Spuy, ER24 General Manager: Quality and Support Services, says ER24 is proud to have been part of the rescue team deployed with Rescue South Africa. “The conditions were incredibly challenging but the fact that our rescue teams embraced all challenges and maintained a specific focus on the mission at hand meant that hundreds of patients and victims in life-threatening distress situations were saved. The emphasis on a multidisciplinary team interaction focusing on one mission and goal helped to achieve these results. We pride ourselves in providing life-saving rescue interventions and humanitarian support to aid victims caught up in sudden-onset disasters. We will continue to strive to assist when called upon to provide rescue support to those in need.”

Published in CSI

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