Phil Vine and Naglaa Thebet Mohamed Rashaan
The date of 21 August is etched on the young minds of one group of Egyptian Red Crescent volunteers.
At 6.30am on the Sunday morning in the Nile Delta, 20 kilometres north of Cairo, two trains collided. One of them derailed and overturned; 58 people died and a further 140 were injured.
As soon as the news came through about the crash, the Egyptian Red Crescent’s trained local volunteers made their way to the scene, offering first aid and psychosocial support to the victims of the crash.
As the search and rescue operation continued throughout the day, the youth volunteers also offered support to rescuers overcome with heat exhaustion. The volunteers also attended a hospital to reassure the wounded, give blood and offer psychological support to the survivors once doctors had stabilized their condition.
“As soon as we knew that some of the families were waiting for their relatives at the morgue in Zinhume, volunteers with the youth club went there.”
The 25 volunteers offered refreshments to the grieving families and helped with the bodies.
“When they noticed the deficiency in the manpower in the morgue, they started to carry and move bodies in the proper place, and to inform the families of the names of the identified corpses, and finally to help in their preparation for funerals.”
On the second day, the volunteers continued to visit the wounded and to support the bereaved families. They listened to those who wanted to tell their story and or wanted to talk about the crash.
The prime minister, during his visit to the site, acknowledged the good work of the Red Crescent and specifically thanked the volunteers.
“It was difficult to cope with all the suffering, the anxiety and the pain of the victims, the families,” says Naglaa, “but the dialogue, the active listening, the availability of the volunteers to stand close to the affected people was helpful. Once more, we, the volunteers of the Red Crescent, have learned a lot.”