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Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen. Picture Credit: Gallo Images
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SA's angels of mercy

By Olebogeng Molatlhwa | Jan 26, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE 10-member search-and-rescue team - eight of them from North West - returned home to a heroes welcome, but they are severely traumatised by what they have seen in Haiti.

The team arrived from earthquake-ravaged Haiti two days ago with tragic stories to tell.

While team members told a press conference how proud they were to have answered the call and represented South Africa, the suffering of Haitians would haunt them.

Team leader Ahmed Bham said his experience in Haiti was very traumatising because of the "heavy loss of lives. The devastation we encountered was of a large magnitude. The infrastructure is totally damaged. People were lying everywhere. It was total chaos".

Bham also told of the emotional burden he and his team had been bearing while carrying out their mission.

He said: "About 600 people died at a cathedral that was used as a hospital. It was very emotional to rescue someone after they had been alive for seven days under rubble."

Medical specialist André Keyser had a word of advice for South Africans.

"Even the poorest of poor South Africans have something to be grateful for. There is nothing left in that country. There's a general feeling of depression," Keyser said.

"When you start treating people, especially children, you see no smiles on their faces."

Keyser described the general feeling of depression among the Haitian people as "almost dead inside".

He said Haitian children were among some of the worst affected.

"Five hundred children were killed at one school," Keyser said.

He recalled seeing how grateful the children he helped were.

Charity Gift of the Givers founder and chairperson Imtiaz Sooliman said some of the amputations that were performed on children had not been done properly.

"Some of the children who were amputated above the ankle will now have to be amputated above the knee. We are sad that the amputations have to take place," he said.

Meanwhile, the government could step in to assist Gift of the Givers acquire a cargo plane to carry the supplies it has collected to Haiti.

Sowetan earlier reported that it would cost between R5million and R10million to send the plane.

Sooliman said: "I have met with the President (Jacob Zuma) and the premier (of North West) and both have agreed in principle to help."

Sooliman also said they might have to hire a ship because the supplies they had collected were overwhelming.

North West Premier Maureen Modiselle expressed her appreciation for the work done by the team.


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