Johannesburg – Five people, among them a 60-year-old woman, were pulled out alive from a destroyed hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Tuesday by SA’s Gift of the Givers rescue team, the organisation said on Wednesday.
“After 2.5 hours of intense activity, team leader Ahmed Bham together with our Mexican partners, rescued a 60 year old lady, she being the first of five survivors,” the organisation said in a statement.
The organisation also cleared the hospital of 600 bodies in order to bring it into operation again, it said.
Another team worked at the Cathedral, treating patients arriving there.
The organisation dispatched its first team to the island nation just before the weekend following a devastating earthquake measuring 7.2, that struck on January 12.
The team came upon a “horrific scene of death and destruction, including lawlessness”, said Gift of the Givers chairperson, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman in a statement released on Tuesday.
They were assigned to an area which no team had yet reached at the time.
“The devastation was mind boggling, with no sign of life, only a litter of corpses and the sick stench of decomposed bodies along the way. The first stop was a Catholic mission, totally destroyed; five bodies were recovered. At another site nine more bodies were recovered,” he said.
The team was on Wednesday expected to move to another location which has not yet been reached by rescue teams.
Sooliman said as road access was impossible, they would be taken by UN helicopters.
The team will be joined by a second team which left South Africa on an Air France flight to Paris on Monday night.
The second team comprises six specialists who are also advanced life support paramedics. As with the first team the rescuers are carrying R2.5 million of heavy equipment.
Sooliman said it was clear that the first team had to be strongly supported to maximise the chance of survival and also to provide medical assistance to the nation.
“Hence, the six-member additional Search and Rescue Team has been dispatched with the first four-member medical team,” he said.
Another 11 member medical team was expected to leave for Haiti on Wednesday with large quantities of medical supplies and 10 more medical specialists will follow on Thursday.
Another 20 medical personnel are on standby in the days to come.