The first response team for Gujarat Earthquake

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Learning about the devastating earthquake that struck Gujarat on 26th Jan. 2001, Amma was grief-stricken on the colossal loss to life and property. Realizing that thousands of the affected would need immediate and expert medical attention, she arranged for a team of highly qualified and committed specialists and paramedical staff from the super specialty hospital. Amrita institute of Medical Science at Kochi to be sent for service in Gujarat. Amma has also directed that two well equipped ambulances with inbuilt operation theatres with a team of 100 people including students and staff of Amrita Institutes to leave for Gujarat. The team comprised one general surgeon, two neurosurgeons, an ortho-pediatrician, two anesthesiologists and a pediatrician. There were also three nurses, a biomedical engineer and four ambulance drivers. The ambulances, equipped with operation theatres and expert trauma care units also carried surgical equipment and medicines worth Rs. 20 Million.

Once the team reached remote villages in Bhuj and Anjar taluks in the Kutch district, they realized that the conditions there to be highly challenging:  it was bone-chilling cold out there with no proper food or dwelling facilities available and there was utter confusion prevailing in the town. Nevertheless, the student volunteers rose to the occasion by cooking and serving food, distributing water sachets, clearing debris so that ambulances could ply the route and promoting general sanitation. They had also assisted the doctors in moving patients in stretchers, sorting the medicines and consoling the affected people. One hundred students from Amrita University helped by recovering bodies from the rubble, distributing clothes and feeding and comforting survivors.

The rescue operations were carried out in 15 villages and within the first few days, the medical team came across many complicated cases of fractures, head injuries and severe burns while the other team got busy right away removing debris and dead bodies. The volunteers provided immediate and essential medical and food supplies to the helpless victims. “It was bitterly cold and we were not familiar with the place. But it was the dedication of team that made it possible” says Br. Sadashiva Chaitanya, recalling those days.

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