Aftershock In Pakistan

<b>Bob Simon</b> Reports On NYC Paramedics Saving Lives In Disaster Zone

This story originally aired on Nov. 13, 2005.

Last fall, a massive earthquake struck Pakistan, killing more than 70,000 people. And then it almost disappeared, from our papers, from our television screens, from our minds. Perhaps it was just one natural disaster too many last year.

But here's the aftershock: after the quake, the situation continued to worsen by the day. Millions were living without shelter and winter was approaching.

In the weeks after the earthquake, correspondent Bob Simon traveled to Pakistan to report on what the United Nations described as the biggest humanitarian nightmare it's dealt with, ever.



Even if you've read about the earthquake, even if you've seen the pictures, nothing can prepare you for being there. It's hard to imagine that all the destruction happened in two minutes.

The towns look like they had been bombarded by a brutal air force for weeks. It's hard to believe that this happened five weeks ago. It could have been yesterday. Nothing has changed. Even the horizon is still strewn with rubble.

There are sights which defy belief. Streets are littered with clothing, sent up by charities and discarded by people. They don't need tattered shirts. They need shelter, food, water, medical care.

The large relief agencies and governments are doing what they can in the cities and the towns, building tent cities for the homeless and handing out food.

But go up into the mountains and you will find a different story. Helicopters drop food to villages, but there are no relief workers on the ground. Except for 13 paramedics from New York City.

They came to Pakistan with no backing or support or agenda except to help. They wound up in Pakistani Kashmir, a disputed territory of undisputed beauty.

When they were dropped off here, Chris Summers was surprised to learn they were the only aid workers there. "I can't believe we haven't seen anyone else in this valley," Summers says.

"There's such a need here. You know? And we're isolated here. I don't really know what's happening in the rest of the country. But in this valley, Jeelum Valley, an enormous need and how is it possible that it's just us, you know, 13 knuckleheads from New York here?"

Knuckleheads? This is Osama bin Laden country, dotted with training camps for jihadists, where Islam is at its most radical and America is seen as the enemy.

But now, people were walking for miles to be treated by the Americans. Some 200 a day were making their way to the clinic, people who were being cared for for the first time since the earthquake.

Joe Connelly works at St. Vincents Hospital in midtown Manhattan but is now cleaning wounds and treating infections that could kill if left untreated.

"I mean we're saving lives, many lives, every single day. You know, as a paramedic in New York City once in a while you have a direct influence on life and death. Here it's happening every half an hour," says Connelly.

In New York their job is to keep a patient alive and drive that ambulance to the nearest hospital. Here there are no hospitals or ambulances. No stretchers, either, except one which they made out of floorboards.

Their clinic is a tent next to a military hospital which had been demolished. There was no running water and no electricity, so they were operating by flashlight. And there were tremors and aftershocks all the time.

Yaser Bashir Coker brought his little sister to the clinic and says he had never seen Americans before coming to the clinic.

His first impression? "They are very cooperative, beautiful and handsome."

  • Daniel Schorn

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