Austrian Red Cross responds to mass pile-up

Published: 26 March 2008 0:00 CET

Low visibility during a major snow storm led to a mass pile-up on a motorway in Upper Austria at the beginning of the week. The Austria Red Cross reacted instantly and sent over 150 members of their emergency medical services to the town of Seewalchen, on the motorway linking Salzburg and Vienna.

Bad visibility, bad road conditions and reckless driving are the most likely causes for the mass pile-up that involved more than 60 cars in the north-west of Austria. As more and more cars crashed into the wrecks that were already lying motionless on the road, many people were trapped inside their vehicles: in the end, one person died and 37 people were injured, six of them seriously. The Austrian Red Cross immediately mobilized and sent over 60 emergency vehicles and three helicopters to the scene. Over 150 members of the emergency medical services were involved in the rescue efforts, that were severely hampered by the weather conditions.

Gerry Foitik, Federal Commander in Charge, explains how the Austrian Red Cross was able to react so quickly to an event of this size: "While the number of persons and cars involved in the accident was remarkable, we are prepared for situations like that. The Austrian Red Cross is a provider of emergency medical services all over the country. Therefore we can react to emergencies and disasters as first responders. And since 80 per cent of our emergency medical staff are volunteers, we have a very high number of well trained and available persons wherever they are most needed."

In addition to taking care of the injured, the Austrian Red Cross also served those who managed to escape the wreckage unharmed, but still shaken. Members of the psychosocial support unit brought 50 people to a nearby Red Cross youth hostel where they had a chance to warm up and process the events they had just been through. Additionally, the Red Cross Society coordinated with the state of Upper Austria so that members of the public, who were worried about their relatives, could get information through a hotline that was set up immediately after the accident.