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Updated: 19 min 40 sec ago

Puerto Rico Issues New Data on Hurricane Maria Deaths

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 00:49

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Eight days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Efrain Perez felt a pain in his chest.

Doctors near his small town sent him to Puerto Rico's main hospital for emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm. But when the ambulance pulled into the parking lot in the capital, San Juan, after a more than two-hour drive, a doctor ran out to stop it.

"He said, 'Don't bring him in here, I can't care for him. I don't have power. I don't have water. I don't have an anesthesiologist,'" Perez's daughter, Nerybelle, recalled.

The 95-year-old Perez died as the ambulance drove him back to southwestern Puerto Rico but he is not included in the island's official hurricane death toll of 64 people, a figure at the center of a growing legal and political fight over the response to the Category 4 storm that hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017.

Facing at least three lawsuits demanding more data on the death toll, Puerto Rico's government released new information on Tuesday that added detail to the growing consensus that hundreds or even thousands of people died as an indirect result of the storm.

According to the new data, there were 1,427 more deaths from September to December 2017 than the average for the same time period over the previous four years. Additionally, September and October had the highest number of deaths of any months since at least 2013. But the statistics don't indicate whether the storm and its aftermath contributed to the additional deaths.

The Puerto Rican government says it believes more than 64 people died as a result of the storm but it will not raise its official toll until George Washington University completes a study of the data being carried out on behalf of the U.S. territory.

The issue is clouded by the fact that the federal government and U.S. states and territories have no uniform definition of what constitutes a storm-related death. The National Hurricane Center counts only deaths directly caused by a storm, like a person killed by a falling tree. It does not count indirect deaths, like someone whose medical equipment fails in a blackout.

Categories: EMS

At Guatemala Volcano, Weather and Danger Halt Search

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 10:47

SAN MIGUEL LOS LOTES, Guatemala (AP) — Guatemala's national disaster agency on Thursday suspended search and rescue efforts at the zone devastated by the eruption of the Volcano of Fire, saying climatic conditions and still-hot volcanic material makes it dangerous for the rescuers.

It said it decided to suspend the search now that 72 hours have passed. That's the length of time officials had said earlier that some victims might have survived.

Troublesome rain and more volcanic activity had been hindering search searches, but when teams have been able to work in the hardest hit areas, the death toll has continued to rise.

Efforts were cut short again Wednesday when a downpour forced teams to retreat for fear of mudslides. Boiling water flowing down the volcano's slopes from dangerously hot volcanic gas and ash also posed a threat. A day earlier, flows of super-heated volcanic material forced crews to pull back.

But between stoppages, search teams working with shovels and heavy equipment found more bodies from Sunday's big eruption. Remains were loaded into body bags and carried out on stretchers.

Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Sciences raised the death toll to 99 late in afternoon, an increase of 24 bodies for the day. Only 28 of the total had been identified. At least 197 people were listed as missing.

"Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here," Efrain Suarez said, standing amid the smoking holes dotting what used to be the village of San Miguel Los Lotes on the flanks of the mountain.

"The bodies are already charred," the 59-year-old truck driver said. "And if heavy machinery comes in they will be torn apart."

Rescuers poked metal rods into the ground, sending clouds of smoke pouring into the air in a sign of the super-hot temperatures still remaining below the surface, which firefighters said reached as high as 750 to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (400 to 700 degrees Celsius) in some places.

Categories: EMS

At Guatemala Volcano, Weather and Danger Halt Search

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 10:47

SAN MIGUEL LOS LOTES, Guatemala (AP) — Guatemala's national disaster agency on Thursday suspended search and rescue efforts at the zone devastated by the eruption of the Volcano of Fire, saying climatic conditions and still-hot volcanic material makes it dangerous for the rescuers.

It said it decided to suspend the search now that 72 hours have passed. That's the length of time officials had said earlier that some victims might have survived.

Troublesome rain and more volcanic activity had been hindering search searches, but when teams have been able to work in the hardest hit areas, the death toll has continued to rise.

Efforts were cut short again Wednesday when a downpour forced teams to retreat for fear of mudslides. Boiling water flowing down the volcano's slopes from dangerously hot volcanic gas and ash also posed a threat. A day earlier, flows of super-heated volcanic material forced crews to pull back.

But between stoppages, search teams working with shovels and heavy equipment found more bodies from Sunday's big eruption. Remains were loaded into body bags and carried out on stretchers.

Guatemala's National Institute of Forensic Sciences raised the death toll to 99 late in afternoon, an increase of 24 bodies for the day. Only 28 of the total had been identified. At least 197 people were listed as missing.

"Nobody is going to be able to get them out or say how many are buried here," Efrain Suarez said, standing amid the smoking holes dotting what used to be the village of San Miguel Los Lotes on the flanks of the mountain.

"The bodies are already charred," the 59-year-old truck driver said. "And if heavy machinery comes in they will be torn apart."

Rescuers poked metal rods into the ground, sending clouds of smoke pouring into the air in a sign of the super-hot temperatures still remaining below the surface, which firefighters said reached as high as 750 to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (400 to 700 degrees Celsius) in some places.

Categories: EMS

Guatemala Volcano

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 10:36

Categories: EMS

Guatemala Volcano

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 10:36

Categories: EMS

Las Vegas Shooting: Audio from 518 9-1-1 Calls Released

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 11:22

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Screams and pleas for help, descriptions of people falling amid rapid gunfire, and breathless questions about what to do next emerged Wednesday in 911 audio made public by Las Vegas police eight months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

"Shots fired! Shots fired! Hurry!" a woman screams, crying as a dispatcher asks where she is and the call disconnects. The dispatcher calls back and another woman answers.

"Machine guns are being fired into the Route 91 festival," she says. "It's coming from above, I would assume from the Mandalay Bay side over by the Luxor."

In addition to the 518 audio calls, police released video from a camera atop the Mandalay Bay resort that provided a bird's-eye view of the country music festival where 58 people died and hundreds were injured on Oct. 1.

The gunfire came from 32nd-floor windows into a crowd of 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival across Las Vegas Boulevard.

Authorities say many more people were traumatized when Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old high-stakes video-poker player, spent 10 minutes firing rapid-fire barrages with assault-style rifles.

The camera atop the hotel bears silent witness as floodlights sweep the concert crowd before the shooting starts; follows the massacre as bright lights come up and people flee; and shows small groups huddled over apparently injured victims.

After sunrise, covered bodies are seen as coroner's vans arrive at the green concert grounds.

The haunting 911 tapes reflect a range of emotions among callers, including panic, fear and desperation.

"We just ran from the concert. Can you tell us what's going on? We were there. It was bad," one man tells a police dispatcher from the safety of a nearby motel room where he and others took shelter.

The dispatcher asks if he is injured. "No," he replies then sobs. "Just not shot."

Categories: EMS

Las Vegas Shooting: Audio from 518 9-1-1 Calls Released

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 11:22

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Screams and pleas for help, descriptions of people falling amid rapid gunfire, and breathless questions about what to do next emerged Wednesday in 911 audio made public by Las Vegas police eight months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

"Shots fired! Shots fired! Hurry!" a woman screams, crying as a dispatcher asks where she is and the call disconnects. The dispatcher calls back and another woman answers.

"Machine guns are being fired into the Route 91 festival," she says. "It's coming from above, I would assume from the Mandalay Bay side over by the Luxor."

In addition to the 518 audio calls, police released video from a camera atop the Mandalay Bay resort that provided a bird's-eye view of the country music festival where 58 people died and hundreds were injured on Oct. 1.

The gunfire came from 32nd-floor windows into a crowd of 22,000 people at the Route 91 Harvest Festival across Las Vegas Boulevard.

Authorities say many more people were traumatized when Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old high-stakes video-poker player, spent 10 minutes firing rapid-fire barrages with assault-style rifles.

The camera atop the hotel bears silent witness as floodlights sweep the concert crowd before the shooting starts; follows the massacre as bright lights come up and people flee; and shows small groups huddled over apparently injured victims.

After sunrise, covered bodies are seen as coroner's vans arrive at the green concert grounds.

The haunting 911 tapes reflect a range of emotions among callers, including panic, fear and desperation.

"We just ran from the concert. Can you tell us what's going on? We were there. It was bad," one man tells a police dispatcher from the safety of a nearby motel room where he and others took shelter.

The dispatcher asks if he is injured. "No," he replies then sobs. "Just not shot."

Categories: EMS

Only a few of Guatemala Volcano's Dead Have Been Identified

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 09:33

EL RODEO, Guatemala (AP) — People of the villages skirting Guatemala's Volcano of Fire have begun mourning the few dead who could be identified after an eruption killed dozens by engulfing them in floods of searing ash and mud.

Mourners cried over caskets lined up in a row in the main park of San Juan Alotenango on Monday evening before rescuers stopped their work for another night.

There was no electricity in the hardest hit areas of Los Lotes and El Rodeo, so most searching continued only until sunset. As dawn broke Tuesday, the volcano continued to rattle, with what the country's volcanology institute said were eight to 10 moderate eruptions per hour — vastly less intense than Sunday's big blasts.

Guatemalan authorities put the death toll at 69, but officials said just 17 had been identified so far because the intense heat of the volcanic debris flows left most bodies unrecognizable.

"It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints" from the red-hot flows, said Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences. "We are going to have to resort to other methods ... and if possible take DNA samples to identify them."

Sunday's eruption caught residents of remote mountain hamlets off guard, with little or no time to flee to safety.

Using shovels and backhoes, emergency workers dug through the debris and mud, perilous labor on smoldering terrain still hot enough to melt shoe soles a day after the volcano exploded in a hail of ash, smoke and molten rock.

Bodies were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues. Rescuers used sledgehammers to break through the roofs of houses buried in debris up to their rooflines to check for anyone trapped inside.

Hilda Lopez said her mother and sister were still missing after the slurry of hot gas, ash and rock roared into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, just below the mountain's flanks.

Categories: EMS

Only a few of Guatemala Volcano's Dead Have Been Identified

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 09:33

EL RODEO, Guatemala (AP) — People of the villages skirting Guatemala's Volcano of Fire have begun mourning the few dead who could be identified after an eruption killed dozens by engulfing them in floods of searing ash and mud.

Mourners cried over caskets lined up in a row in the main park of San Juan Alotenango on Monday evening before rescuers stopped their work for another night.

There was no electricity in the hardest hit areas of Los Lotes and El Rodeo, so most searching continued only until sunset. As dawn broke Tuesday, the volcano continued to rattle, with what the country's volcanology institute said were eight to 10 moderate eruptions per hour — vastly less intense than Sunday's big blasts.

Guatemalan authorities put the death toll at 69, but officials said just 17 had been identified so far because the intense heat of the volcanic debris flows left most bodies unrecognizable.

"It is very difficult for us to identify them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints" from the red-hot flows, said Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences. "We are going to have to resort to other methods ... and if possible take DNA samples to identify them."

Sunday's eruption caught residents of remote mountain hamlets off guard, with little or no time to flee to safety.

Using shovels and backhoes, emergency workers dug through the debris and mud, perilous labor on smoldering terrain still hot enough to melt shoe soles a day after the volcano exploded in a hail of ash, smoke and molten rock.

Bodies were so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues. Rescuers used sledgehammers to break through the roofs of houses buried in debris up to their rooflines to check for anyone trapped inside.

Hilda Lopez said her mother and sister were still missing after the slurry of hot gas, ash and rock roared into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, just below the mountain's flanks.

Categories: EMS

Guatemala Volcano Death Toll Up to 33, Expected to Rise

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 13:42

EL RODEO, Guatemala (AP) — Rescuers on Monday pulled at least 10 people alive from ash drifts and mud flows that poured down the slopes of Guatemala's erupting Volcano of Fire, but officials said at least 33 people were dead and the toll was expected to rise.

The head of the country's disaster agency, Sergio Cabanas, gave the updated death toll, but said rescuers using helicopters had pulled 10 people from areas swept over by a towering cloud of thick ash, mud or lava.

Residents of El Rodeo, about 8 miles (12 kilometers) downslope from the crater, said they were caught unaware by fast-moving pyroclastic flows when the volcano west of Guatemala City exploded Sunday, sending towering clouds of ash miles into the air.

Searing flows of ash mixed with water and debris down its flanks, blocking roads and burning homes.

The charred landscape left behind was still too hot to touch or even to pull bodies from in many parts, melting the shoes of rescuers. Workers told of finding bodies so thickly coated with ash they appeared to be statues. Inhaling ash or hot volcanic gases can asphyxiate people quickly.

Hilda Lopez said the volcanic mud swept into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, just below the mountain's flanks. She still doesn't know where her mother or her sister are.

"We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming," Lopez recalled. "We didn't believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street."

"My mother was stuck there, she couldn't get out," said Lopez, weeping and holding her face in her hands.

Disaster agency spokesman David de Leon said 18 bodies had been found in San Miguel Los Lotes. Lopez's husband, Joel Gonzalez, said his father was had been unable to escape and was believed to be "buried back there, at the house."

In the village of El Rodeo, heavily armed soldiers wearing blue masks to ward off the dust stood guard behind yellow tape cordoning off the scene as orange-helmeted workers operated a backhoe. A group of residents arrived at the scene with shovels and work boots.

Categories: EMS

Guatemala Volcano Death Toll Up to 33, Expected to Rise

Mon, 06/04/2018 - 13:42

EL RODEO, Guatemala (AP) — Rescuers on Monday pulled at least 10 people alive from ash drifts and mud flows that poured down the slopes of Guatemala's erupting Volcano of Fire, but officials said at least 33 people were dead and the toll was expected to rise.

The head of the country's disaster agency, Sergio Cabanas, gave the updated death toll, but said rescuers using helicopters had pulled 10 people from areas swept over by a towering cloud of thick ash, mud or lava.

Residents of El Rodeo, about 8 miles (12 kilometers) downslope from the crater, said they were caught unaware by fast-moving pyroclastic flows when the volcano west of Guatemala City exploded Sunday, sending towering clouds of ash miles into the air.

Searing flows of ash mixed with water and debris down its flanks, blocking roads and burning homes.

The charred landscape left behind was still too hot to touch or even to pull bodies from in many parts, melting the shoes of rescuers. Workers told of finding bodies so thickly coated with ash they appeared to be statues. Inhaling ash or hot volcanic gases can asphyxiate people quickly.

Hilda Lopez said the volcanic mud swept into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, just below the mountain's flanks. She still doesn't know where her mother or her sister are.

"We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming," Lopez recalled. "We didn't believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street."

"My mother was stuck there, she couldn't get out," said Lopez, weeping and holding her face in her hands.

Disaster agency spokesman David de Leon said 18 bodies had been found in San Miguel Los Lotes. Lopez's husband, Joel Gonzalez, said his father was had been unable to escape and was believed to be "buried back there, at the house."

In the village of El Rodeo, heavily armed soldiers wearing blue masks to ward off the dust stood guard behind yellow tape cordoning off the scene as orange-helmeted workers operated a backhoe. A group of residents arrived at the scene with shovels and work boots.

Categories: EMS

Treating the Ebola Outbreak in Western Africa

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 14:46

Ogweno and his team brought as many as 25 patients a day to the ETU. Photos courtesy Elvis Ogweno

Working in EMS on an Ebola mission means you’re the first contact with the patient and the family. What you tell them matters a lot.

When visiting a contaminated home, our team, which consists of a driver, two hygienists, one paramedic, and one psycho-social nurse, has to perform both donning (i.e., putting on) and doffing (i.e., taking off) our personal protective equipment (PPE) in the field.

Before entering the house, we run through a PPE checklist: Scrubs, gum boots, gloves, Tychem suit, mask, hood, apron, goggles, and gloves (again).

“Ready?” I ask the hygienist assisting me.

She shakes her head and grabs a small strip of duct tape, covering the space between my hood and goggles where a thin slice of skin was showing.

“Now you’re ready,” she replies.

The temperature in most parts of Liberia is just over 80 degrees F. The humidity is even higher. I feel the sweat collecting between my skin and the suit, pooling in my boots and along the bottom of my goggles as I slowly follow the one of the hygienists, who’s also dressed in full PPE, into the patient’s house (i.e., the high-risk zone).

It feels far more like we’re scuba diving in a hot spring than a conducting a normal inter-facility ambulance transfer in the city, but that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Categories: EMS

Preparing for Vehicle Attacks: Lessons Learned from Berlin, Germany

Fri, 06/01/2018 - 02:18
Lessons learned from the truck attack in Berlin, Germany By Johannes Kohlen, EMT-P & Klaus Runggaldier, PhD, EMT-P

Injured persons are treated by first responders and bystanders who provided initial first aid after a terrorist drove a truck into a crowd of people at a Christmas market in Berlin. Photo courtesy Berliner Feuerwehr

It was a cold, dry winter’s evening at a popular Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, Germany on the night of December 19, 2016. With the temperature hovering just above freezing, residents and visitors peacefully drank warm, mulled wine as they huddled around market stalls next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Nobody noticed the semi-trailer truck, stolen earlier that night, as its driver made his way from the direction of Zoologischer Garten railway station and deliberately drove into the crowd of holiday shoppers in the square outside the church.

The incident, likely a terrorist attack, injured 67 people, many critically, and 12 people were killed. In the year since this attack took place, deliberate attacks where vehicles are used as lethal weapons have increased in frequency and become a disturbing trend.

Last year, vehicles were used as weapons in attacks in cities both large and small, in the U.S. and abroad, including New York City, Barcelona, Charlottesville (Va.), Stockholm, Jerusalem and London—where there were two attacks. Sadly, Germany can now lay claim to experiencing two of these attacks, after the driver of a delivery truck slammed into a crowd of people in the city of Muenster on April 7.

Categories: EMS

Design to Honor Sept. 11 Rescuers and Recovery Workers Unveiled

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 13:14

NEW YORK (AP) — A pathway flanked by six stones meant to symbolize strength and determination will be added to the Sept. 11 memorial site in lower Manhattan to honor the rescue and recovery workers who toiled for months at ground zero, officials announced Wednesday in unveiling the design concept.

The new dedicated area will also serve as a way to honor those who became sick or died from exposure to the toxins in the environment after the twin towers fell.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site, both on the day of 9/11 and during the months of recovery operations that followed," Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, said in a statement.

She added, "By integrating this meaningful public space at the memorial, we seek to recognize all those for whom 9/11 has remained an all-too-present reality."

The announcement was on the day of the memorial and museum's annual commemoration of the rescue and recovery effort, which officially ended on May 30, 2002.

The idea for the space had been announced last year, with officials joined by former "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, a board member of the museum who has been an outspoken advocate for the Zadroga Act, which provides health benefits to first responders who fell ill after the attacks.

He said in his statement: "These men and women sacrificed themselves for the rest of us and have spent years suffering and dying because of it. We have long owed it to them to honor their contributions. It's also important for us to recognize the folks who have died or are suffering who were exposed to World Trade Center toxins while working in lower Manhattan or called the community their home."

The new space was designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, the men who came up with the concept for the reflecting pools and surrounding trees that make up the Sept. 11 memorial and plaza.

Categories: EMS

Design to Honor Sept. 11 Rescuers and Recovery Workers Unveiled

Wed, 05/30/2018 - 13:14

NEW YORK (AP) — A pathway flanked by six stones meant to symbolize strength and determination will be added to the Sept. 11 memorial site in lower Manhattan to honor the rescue and recovery workers who toiled for months at ground zero, officials announced Wednesday in unveiling the design concept.

The new dedicated area will also serve as a way to honor those who became sick or died from exposure to the toxins in the environment after the twin towers fell.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center site, both on the day of 9/11 and during the months of recovery operations that followed," Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum, said in a statement.

She added, "By integrating this meaningful public space at the memorial, we seek to recognize all those for whom 9/11 has remained an all-too-present reality."

The announcement was on the day of the memorial and museum's annual commemoration of the rescue and recovery effort, which officially ended on May 30, 2002.

The idea for the space had been announced last year, with officials joined by former "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, a board member of the museum who has been an outspoken advocate for the Zadroga Act, which provides health benefits to first responders who fell ill after the attacks.

He said in his statement: "These men and women sacrificed themselves for the rest of us and have spent years suffering and dying because of it. We have long owed it to them to honor their contributions. It's also important for us to recognize the folks who have died or are suffering who were exposed to World Trade Center toxins while working in lower Manhattan or called the community their home."

The new space was designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, the men who came up with the concept for the reflecting pools and surrounding trees that make up the Sept. 11 memorial and plaza.

Categories: EMS