Peruvians saving lives in Haiti

January 16th, 2010

With plenty of experience of their own, Peruvian rescue teams  have been hard at work since arriving in the western half of the Carribean island.

Nine and a half hours of work has resulted in the rescue of a 33 year old woman alive – one of potentially thousands still hanging on to life buried bellow the rubble of their homes.

After 80 hours trapped, Lidovia Pierresainte was pulled out alive in the Haitian capital, her screams for help finally being answered.

Peruvian teams (ANDINA/Piero Vargas)

Peruvian teams (ANDINA/Piero Vargas)

By pure co-incidence the team, stuck in heavy traffic in the ruined capital of Port-au-Prince, had the opportunity to go to the aid of a man who begged them to check his collapsed home for survivors. None were found, but another woman led the team to a nearby building where people had reported hearing voices.

They were first and almost immediately able to pull out a 58 year old woman from the building that once had 5 floors. She was in a stable condition and informed the team that below her was a woman and perhaps three teenagers. A silence and the smell that emanated from their rooms gave away their conditions, but the voice of a woman on the same floor was met by the team’s frantic action.

Trapped from waist down by a metal door, a door that both pinned her down but protected her from the total collapse of the roof, she could speak with clarity to her rescuers.

Joined by Colombian fire-fighters, Spanish and Nicaraguan Civil Guards at her discovery, each was able to provide key equipment that saved the woman’s life.

When finally pulled from the rubble, she had no idea of the location of her four children, of that three whole days had passed since the earthquake.

According to neighbours, as many as 19 people are buried, possibly alive, in the ruined homes on what was once a city street.

Peruvian response

Peru was quick to organise military aircraft to ferry aid and rescuers to Haiti. Almost immediately a plane carrying 24 tonnes of aid was sent but was unable to reach Haiti. Heavy air traffic and no permission to land saw the plane diverted to the Dominican Republic were the journey is being continued by land over rough terrain.

Headed by a group of cabinet ministers, the first flight wasn’t free of controversy. Volunteer fire-fighters with specialist training in earthquake search and rescue complained to the press that they were forced to miss the flight and give up their seats so the ministers of President Alan Garcia’s ever-publicity-seeking government could be sent instead.

The Government dismiss the claim and state the rescuers will be sent on the coming flights, but Peruvians wonder what point there is in sending any politicians at all.

Peruvian Loss

It is not known what the number of Peruvian casualties in Haiti will be. There are Peruvian private citizens known to be living in Haiti and several serving with the United Nations who did suffer significant loss of personnel.

One confirmed death was that of Luis Eduardo Chanllío Quipse, who’s body has arrived in the Dominican Republic to be brought back to Peru. The Peruvian Consul in chaotic Haiti is currently organising a report on the whereabouts and condition of other Peruvians known to be there.

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