Paramedic tells of quake ordeal

AFTER six intensive days dealing with the devastation of the Asian earthquake disaster, paramedic Andy Bambridge was yesterday taking the first tentative steps back into life in Suffolk.

AFTER six intensive days dealing with the devastation of the Asian earthquake disaster, paramedic Andy Bambridge was yesterday taking the first tentative steps back into life in Suffolk.

Mr Bambridge, 39, of Thurlow, near Haverhill, is one of the 15-strong rescue team sent by RAPID UK to Pakistani capital Islamabad, where they managed to free seven people from what little remains of the Margala Towers apartment block.

Between catching up with a week's worth of sleep he had missed during the rescue mission, Mr Bambridge described the conflicting emotions presented by the ordeal.

“It's like none of the little things matter any more, the leaking roof, the faulty answerphone, I just don't care about them, none of it seems important, money doesn't seem important.


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“It takes time, and these things will matter at some point, but while you want to get back into your routine, into what is normally Andy Bambridge if you like, it's quite hard to do.”

Thanks to flights provided by British Airways, Andy's team was not only on the scene within 24 hours of the earthquake hitting, but had also managed to immediately retrieve two people from the rubble.

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“At first the people out there didn't want the British or anyone there, and they told us this, but they said it quickly became clear what we were doing and their attitudes changed, they were amazing, nothing was too much trouble.

“We are entirely self-sufficient, and we had to politely decline offers of food.”

The Margala Towers were the only buildings in Islamabad which collapsed during the earthquake, leaving the rest of the city largely unscathed and the majority of the devastation concentrated to the North of the country.

While this made the job easier logistically in terms of getting to the site, Mr Bambridge said the relative surrounding calm seemed to heighten the tragedy and in spite of the success of the mission, it may take some time before the extent of the personal toll of what he has witnessed becomes clear.

He said: “When you've pulled someone out alive, there's no time for celebration, you're straight into debriefing and you just keep going, you've been crawling over dead bodies who are relatives of the people you are trying to rescue, but you don't have time to think about it.

“In your heart of hearts you are chuffed because you have grafted for days in terrible conditions, but it's not until afterwards that it really hits home.

“Usually you count it as a success if the whole team manages to get home without being hurt or killed, but when you have actually saved lives then it's something quite different, I don't quite know how I feel, but I'm sure the tears will come out eventually.

“I'm more patient when I get back from missions, and a little bit sad, if that makes sense.”

For the time being, Mr Bambridge, who has been with RAPID UK for 15 years, attending missions in India, Palestine, Algeria and Turkey was looking forward to sampling a taste of normal life; seeing his brother and his nephews and having Sunday lunch and a pint at the local pub.

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