The mother began to scream desperately for her daughter, which shocked us all. She informed us her second child still remained trapped underneath the rocks as she clung to us for help. The hill continued to shift underneath our feet, which only worsened our concerns.
NEUQUEN, Argentina — On August 1, 2023, part of a hill collapsed in Chos Malal, just north of Neuquen. We rescued four injured people including two children and a pregnant woman from the dangerous scene. A few minutes before the collapse happened, a little girl felt a tremor and warned her parents that the hill moved. Before they had time to react, the ground suddenly caved in. The little girl pushed her pregnant mother out of the way in an attempt to save her. At that moment, she found herself trapped under a rock, unable to escape.
When the landslide started, my colleagues and I sat at the firehouse. We received an urgent call and my body suddenly awoke, full of adrenaline, as I sounded the alarm. Every second counted. We rushed to the truck and drove to the location. When we arrived, we realized we needed the canine brigade to assess the situation and check for signs of life. We interrupted traffic and made room for the rescue mission to start. Suddenly, we spotted two adults and a child in the debris and got them out as quickly as we could.
The mother began to scream desperately for her daughter, which shocked us all. She informed us her second child still remained trapped underneath the rocks as she clung to us for help. The hill continued to shift underneath our feet, which only worsened our concerns. The longer we stayed on top of it, the more dangerous it became. My heart beat out of my chest as I pondered the best way to help her daughter. A geologist among us discovered two major faults in the terrain and warned us to be quick. We tried to lift the rocks with hydraulic tools, the same ones used for vehicle rescue.
We managed to lift the heavy stone with iron bars used in construction and stabilize it. Once we added some support, we successfully spotted Abigail, the little girl that was trapped. The rocks crushed her leg and she cried and screamed in pain. I approached the area to reassure her, though time was not on our side. My voice became the only connection Abigail had with the outside world as she lay underneath the rubble.
I told her, “We’ve got you. Just a few more minutes and we will get you out. You’ll be with your mother soon.” As the possibility of a new collapse dawned on us, we acted swiftly. Thankfully, years of experience allowed me to remain calm and approach the situation with a clear head. Minutes after the machines started to work, we propped the ground up and got her out. Her face looked dirty and covered in cuts.
She suffered a broken leg and scratches all over her tiny body. As she continued to cry, she hugged me tightly, thanking me for saving her. I smiled at her and held her hand while we made our way to her parents. Saving her felt incredibly rewarding. I feel thankful every day that I got to be there on the ground assisting people in need. Nothing beats the feeling of helping others in situations like these. Once they made their way to the hospital, the team embraced and congratulated one another. Thankfully, no lives were lost that day.
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