Second Search and Rescue Team For Haiti

On Monday, 18 January 2010, Gift of the Givers 2nd Search and Rescue team departed for Haiti on an Air France flight to Paris and onward to the Dominican Republic. The team comprises 6 specialists who are also advance life support paramedics. As with the first team they are carrying R2.5 million of heavy equipment. This team is accompanied by our first 4-member medical team which is carrying essential medical supplies. A media delegation has accompanied this 2nd team.

The 1st 10-member Search and Rescue team was received by Caritas/Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Santa Domingo on Saturday, 16 January 2010 and, in convoy with a security escort was taken to the CRS compound in Port Au Prince. Caritas, an internationally renowned charity, has been well established in Haiti and the Dominican Republic for many years, and is our ground partner. This journey from Santa Domingo to the Haitian capital took 9 hours. At 04h00 the team members got a huge fright as there were gunshots outside the compound; one bullet struck a gate close to the team. Thankfully they are all safe.

On Monday, 18 January 2010, the first team was assigned an area which no team had thus far reached. The 60km arduous journey through destroyed roads took 2.5 hours. 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; 5 bodies were recovered. At another site 9 more bodies were recovered.

On Tuesday, 19 January 2010, the team has been assigned their gruesome duty; move to a hospital site to remove 600 bodies to start preparing the hospital to be used as a hospital. Six of our team members will be deployed here and will be joined by a 7-member Mexican team. The other 4 members are going to a Cathedral to start suturing and treating the huge influx of patients arriving there.

On Wednesday, 20 January 2010, their brief is to move to another city where no team has reached. It is believed that many are in need of medical assistance here. It is also believed that their are numerous survivors in this city. Access by road is impossible. At a briefing today, the Gift of the Givers team were told that they will be flown in on UN helicopters on this day and would be the first Search and Rescue Team to be taken in.

Gift of the Givers team is also on standby for Caritas if the organisation is made aware of the signs of human life in any structure. It is quite clear that the first team has to be strongly supported to maximise the chance of survival and also the need to provide medical assistance to a seriously traumatised nation. Hence, the 6-member additional Search and Rescue Team has been dispatched with the first 4-member medical team. On Wednesday, 20 January 2010, another 11 member medical team departs with large quantities of medical supplies. On Thursday, 21 January 2010, ten more medical specialists depart. Another 20 medical personnel are on standby in the days to come.

The time for South Africans to respond with heart and soul has arrived. Contributions can be made into Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, A/C No. 052137228,  Branch Code 057525. The first pictures have arrived and are on our website www.giftofthegivers.org