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Dangerous landslide in Chos Malal traps a child underneath the rubble

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.

  • 9 months ago
  • August 28, 2023
4 min read
Thanks to the quick actions of the fire brigade of Chos Malal, four people were rescued from the rubble and taken to a nearby hospital after a landslide. While the cause of the landslide remains unknown, the area has been cordoned off for fear of a second collapse. Thanks to the quick actions of the fire brigade of Chos Malal, four people were rescued from the rubble and taken to a nearby hospital after a landslide. While the cause of the landslide remains unknown, the area has been cordoned off for fear of a second collapse. l Photo courtesy of the Chos Malal rescue team
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Pablo Sandoval grew up in Argentina, where he became a firefighter. Passionate about saving people, he wanted to be on the ground for rescue missions whenever possible. He heads the rescue corps of the Chos Malal Volunteer Fire Department, who were called at the scene during the landslide in Chos Malal.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On August 1, 2023, a landslide took place on the Hill of the Virgin in Chos Malal. The landslide occurred in a sector that is located on the provincial road and left four people injured. Among the injured were an adult, a pregnant woman, and two children.

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. 

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As soon as we received the call, we knew our time was limited 

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. 

As we stood on the hill, we faced the danger of another collapse 

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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