A 10-STRONG party of volunteers has just returned from Pakistan where they spent seven days helping those affected by the devastating flooding.
The Emergency Response Team — Search and Rescue, based at the Henley Business School and headed by Gary Foo from Shiplake, flew to Karachi.
The UN immediately deployed them to Sukkur in the Sindh Province, one of the worst-affected areas, and they flew out in a Hercules.
The team included Mr Foo’s wife, Virginia, and three other women who were able to deal with the health and medical needs of women and children. One member spoke fluent Urdu.
They were based in Jacobabad where 700,000 people needed rescue, relief and humanitarian aid. They took with them life-saving equipment including tents, water, oral rehydration solutions, food, blankets and medicines.
Working closely with other humanitarian groups and the military, they discovered that although some people had been rescued from the flood waters, there were still dozens of people stranded, many on the roofs of their homes.
The team rescued a number of people. Some wanted to stay with their homes but still required essential aid supplies.
Mr Foo, who also works as a paramedic and advises governments on emergency planning, said he was shocked by what he and his colleagues witnessed. “It is overwhelming and massive,” he said. “People are in physical and mental distress and it is not going to be over soon.”
He said they had been told to expect the flood waters to stretch for 15 to 20 miles along the Indus River but discovered they extended for up to 30 miles and were so deep that many areas were inaccessible by road.
“We were working in 47e_SDgrC heat,” Mr Foo added. “The floods were as far as the eye could see and there is mass devastation. There is also infection being passed on due to unsanitary water conditions, causing illnesses such as diarrhoea and skin and eye infections.
“Working in a water rescue and medical capacity, our team was able to deploy in a life-affecting way to help those suffering. There were many animals trapped and killed by the flooding as well.
“Everyone we met was doing what they could to help but it is an absolutely massive humanitarian crisis.”
Mr Foo said that although corridors had been created to link the main cities, they too were under threat as the water in some areas continues to rise. He said that the flood water was moving down the Indus to the Arabian Sea and was threatening to destroy dams, villages and towns in its path.
The team took 10 new 17ft rescue power boats with them which cost £70,000 and were paid for by Arif Naqvi, a client of Mr Foo’s. They were left behind for their continued use when the team flew back to the UK late on Wednesday of last week.
The team comprised Mr Foo and his wife, Alex Undin, Gary Brown, Phil Glannan, Justine Levine, Geoff Geraghty, Dr Varrin Shaikh, Dr Victoria Cameron-Mowat and Dr Nicola Cullum.
lThe Emergency Response Team — Search and Rescue, was formed in 2002 and was originally called Oxfordshire Search and Rescue. It changed its name two years later and has assisted in disasters around the world.
In 2005 it travelled to Sri Lanka following the tsunami and to Pakistan to help out after the earthquake. It was deployed in 2007 to assist those affected by the flooding in the UK and earlier this year.