Earthquake hits Haiti

B-FAST helps Haitians in overcoming the devastating earthquake.

In the night of Tuesday 12 January to Wednesday 13 January, Haiti – the poorest country of the western hemisphere – was startled by a severe earthquake with a magnitude of 7 on the Richter scale. Tens of thousands of people were killed. As the infrastructure was completely destroyed by the earthquake, the functioning of the country was heavily disrupted. The response of the international community came fast. The Belgian government immediately activated B-FAST.

The Council of Ministers released the following means:
• A B-FAST team made up of sixty staff, subdivided in 3 groups:
o a medical intervention team with a field hospital (20 staff)
o an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Team of 33 members and 4 rescue dogs
o a water purification installation attended by 2 technicians
• A military security detachment (36 troops)
• Support of the transport of emergency tents from the Red Cross to Haiti.

The B-FAST team left as early as on 13 January. From 17 January on, the military detachment joined it in order to protect both the B-Fast staff and the material. On 23 January a second medical team took over from the first medical team in the field hospital. Together with the USAR and the technicians who attended the water purification installation, the first medical team returned to Belgium.

During the first 10 days of the B-FAST mission to Haiti, 126 surgical operations were carried out in the field hospital and 760 people were provided care. USAR succeeded in digging out  three people from under the ruins but also found many victims who had died. During the two following weeks, 1,200 people were provided care in the field hospital and 1800 people elsewhere (especially in orphanages). During the whole period, six deliveries were achieved successfully.

After the departure of B-FAST, the field hospital was handed over to a medical team from Puerto Rico, which was assisted by local staff. Till the end of May 2010, Belgian medical teams (of 3 people) were replaced every month in an emergency hospital set up by the German Red Cross.