I had just said goodbye to a delegation from a country that had been visiting as part of a cultural exchange, and to their local counterparts when my secretary came in and told me of the news. Another earthquake, but this time a town had been badly affected.
When I went and spoke to the rescue service it turned out to be the town where the orphanage is, the one my grandmother and mother had been so involved with. I phoned Anthea to tell her, and left her a voice message saying I was going there.
I went and changed into more rugged clothing, used one of my perks to order a military helicopter, ensured it was one that could transport injured and drove to the city helipad to be flown to the affected town.
I was among the first wave of rescuers arriving. The man from the country’s rescue service took one look at me and said “That was quick”. We smiled at each other. I am of service when I do organising at anything like this; everyone listens and does what I say, just because I am the king. It makes organising and co-ordinating any rescue operation so much easier.
Within 15 minutes we had a command centre going. Someone to keep track of injured and transport to hospitals for them, balancing the load between the hospitals we contacted to be ready for any injured, someone else to look after any children who seemed all over the place. Someone else to run the lists of missing and found people. I phoned the nearest army base and within minutes had the commander promising a mobile food truck with us within an hour.
Several clipboards with lists of places being searched, I realised no-one had gone to the orphanage. Some more volunteers arrived, I was surprised to see Philip among them, but we merely nodded, this was about the trapped and injured, not a personal thing. I sent that team to the orphanage.
Within 4 hours the worst damage had been assessed, teams arrived to be fed and take a break, new ones sent to different positions. A level of order in the chaos.
My hope that the orphanage was unaffected was not met. Most of the children were fine, they had been outside playing in the late afternoon. Some of the buildings were badly damaged. The house mother was dead, the other 3 staff and one of the children were badly injured and flown to a nearby town for hospitalisation. The rescue party returned with the children, reporting that all staff and children were accounted for. The children were fed and then helped into an army truck, I had organised for them to spend the night in the gym at the army base a few hours away where they would be safe and cared for until we could plan better for them the next day.
I phoned Anthea again, hoping she could start making plans for the children. She still did not answer. I was a little annoyed, surely by now she had heard the news.
There was an aftershock, and reports came in of a few apartment buildings, so far apparently unaffected, that now started collapsing. I rushed off the team who returned from the orphanage to help there.
In the dark, I had several soldiers erecting tents for those rescued who had nowhere else to go. People in shock had at least been fed and had somewhere to sleep. Sanitary facilities were there, but very basic. Something else to deal with NOW.