Red Cross assists victims of bus crash in Belgium

Published: 18 April 2013 9:00 CET

By Belgian Red Cross and Giovanni Zambello, IFRC

Last Sunday, after a bus carrying 39 Russian teenagers crashed on the E34 while heading to Antwerp, Belgium – killing five people and injuring 19 - a total of more than 100 volunteers from the emergency and social intervention services of the Belgian Red Cross, Flemish community, worked around the clock to assist the people involved in the deadly accident.

 Over 30 Red Cross volunteers and staff arrived at the disaster site minutes after the crash to bring immediate medical support to the people involved, starting to transport the injured to the nearest hospitals in Lier, Malle, Herentals, Deurne and Antwerp, and setting up an advanced medical post in a nearby area where they performed triage - the process of categorization of patients based on the severity of their injuries.

 Immediately after receiving the news of the crash, the Russian Red Cross, in close cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, got in touch with the Belgian Red Cross through the IFRC Europe Zone Office to offer support, while the Russian Ministry of Health deployed two health teams to the Belgium to assist the Red Cross in the relief operations.

 In the meantime, volunteers of the social intervention service ensured the the best possible care for the uninjured youth, and took care of the identification of all children in the hospitals where they were taken. The uninjured ones were initially hosted in the fire station of Zandhoven, where they were offered drinks, food, blankets and psychosocial support, and were later moved to Kinderboerderij ’t Groenhof, a youth centre in the nearby Pulle, where in the course of the afternoon all children allowed to leave the hospital were also taken. All of them were eventually repatriated from the airport in Zaventem around 2am.

As all the people involved in the accident were Russian, one of the issues faced by the Belgian Red Cross during the relief operation was obviously the language barrier, which made the presence translators an absolute necessity. Thanks to the help of the Russian community in Belgium, the network of the service for asylum seekers and international cooperation, the Belgian Red Cross quickly managed to find Dutch-Russian interpreters within the organisation itself, who volunteered to liaise between the volunteers and the people assisted, and were immediately deployed to the hospitals under the guidance of the volunteers of the social intervention service. An inspiring example of the capacity of the Red Cross to make best use of its own resources to find creative solutions to unexpected challenges.