Disaster agencies treat wounded after Italian earthquake damages hospital

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 09 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1524
  1. John Zarocostas
  1. 1Geneva

    The earthquake that struck the town of L’Aquila, in central Italy, on 6 April has killed more than 270 people, injured more than 1500, made 40-50 000 people homeless, and seriously damaged the main hospital, officials from the Italian Red Cross and the World Health Organization have said.

    The quake, which had magnitude 6.3, underscores the need to make hospitals safe in emergencies, said WHO.

    L’Aquila’s 500 bed hospital, built 15 years ago, had to be evacuated because part of it had collapsed.

    About 10 000 buildings were completely destroyed or damaged by the earthquake, primarily in the medieval part of the town.

    Tommasso Della Longa, spokesman for the Red Cross, said that within a few hours of the quake the agency had set up two units with 15 doctors and nurses in each and had treated more than 300 people within the first 24 hours.

    About 50 ambulances and trucks from the Red Cross helped take some patients from the damaged hospital and those seriously injured to hospitals in Tagliacozzo, Pescina, Avezzano, and Rome.

    Fadela Chaib, WHO spokeswoman, said that Italian health authorities advised the agency that the provision of health needs was “under control” and that chronically ill patients had been moved to other hospitals for treatment such as dialysis.

    Ms Chaib said that helicopters were also used to move the most seriously injured to hospitals in Rome and that a team of psychologists had arrived from Rome to provide support for post-traumatic stress disorder to survivors. More than 5000 emergency rescuers were mobilised.

    According to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, about 25 big earthquakes have struck Italy in the past 40 years, some with a magnitude of 6.9, killing more than 5000 people and injuring tens of thousands more.

    Italy, along with Greece, Romania, and Turkey, are among the most earthquake prone nations in Europe, with millions of people vulnerable to seismic shocks, says the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

    “Buildings are the main killers when earthquakes strike, which is why constructing resilient buildings in earthquake prone zones is vital,” said Helena Molin-Valdes, deputy director at the agency. “All new public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, and factories, are critical infrastructures that should be built according to seismic standards in all areas known to be susceptible to earthquakes. It is reckless not to do so, particularly for any new construction in identified seismic zones.”


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1524

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