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Quake rescuer feels humbled

By Jo Deeks on Saturday, 1st January 2000.

AFTER a gruelling rescue operation in India, where he helped pull a young earthquake victim alive from the rubble, a Haverhill paramedic has returned home humbled by the exhausting experience.
Andy Bambridge, 35, who lives at Little Thurlow, works for the East Anglian Ambulance Trust and spent 10 days in Bhuj, one of the worst hit areas of the western state of Gujarat.
He was one of a team of 12 volunteers from the Rapid UK organisation who were among the first to visit the area searching for survivors.
The team discovered 10-year-old Path in the rubble, with his dead mother lying across him and his younger brother dead at his feet. He had been trapped under a collapsed building for 84 hours and it took more than nine hours to release him.
Although the rescue team managed to release the boy without removing his leg, it was so badly crushed it later had to be amputated in hospital.
As soon as he is well enough Path will be flown to England and fitted with a prosthetic limb.
Although between seven and nine people were rescued from the devastated town, the death toll from the earthquake overall had reached 40,000 when the team left and is expected to rise considerably.
Andy mastered a few words of the boy's language to reassure him as he was trapped and spoke to him as he was taken to the field hospital on an open truck. The rescue was an uplifting moment for the whole team.
"I just said hello, told him he was OK and that his father would look after him. I just cuddled him as best I could. Everyone was so pleased that we got him out alive, there were massive smiles all round," said Mr Bambridge.
"When we arrived it was freezing cold, severe aftershocks, thousands of people in panic and the stench of death all around. There are no recognisable buildings or roads, everything is just flattened.
"They are such lovely people. They are carrying their whole world around on their heads or in plastic bags. Yet they dig deep to see what they can give you. They offer water and want to know what they can do to help.
"Since I have got back I feel exhausted and guilty about being here. I have got my wife, my house and my job and they have lost everything. It is very humbling," he said.
Mr Bambridge was especially grateful to his employers for their support in letting him go to India and train to become a member of Rapid UK. The first thing he wanted when he arrived home was a cuddle from wife Sue, but she is purser with British Airways and not yet back from a long-haul trip.
The couple have spoken on the phone and Sue is very supportive of her husband's work. The couple have not been able to take a holiday together for some time because Andy has used all his leave time to train for his Rapid UK role.

PHOTO CAPTION: Back home... Andy Bambridge

Haverhill Weekly News

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