IsraAID volunteer Silvana Winer in Italy after the quake

Israeli trauma specialists assist in Italy quake aftermath

IsraAID, the Israeli international aid organization, was the first on the ground in Italy after the devastating earthquake there on August 24; alongside search and rescue teams, IsraAID provides a much needed but sometimes overlooked service during a disaster - psychological trauma care.

IsraAID's emergency professionals were on standby within hours of the earthquake in central Italy. IsraAID was the first foreign aid organization on the ground in Italy to help survivors.



Amongst the first to be recruited to the team was psychologist Silvana Winer who was born in Rome and immigrated to Israel at age 20. With Italian as her mother tongue and a deep understanding of the culture, Winer is an invaluable asset to the IsraAID team.


"It all happened so quickly and I can hardly believe that I'm back in Italy, not to taste the famous flavors of Rome, but this time to assist," Winer said. "I'm here to help in any way that I can."


IsraAID workers walk by a destroyed building in central Italy (Photo: IsraAID)
IsraAID workers walk by a destroyed building in central Italy (Photo: IsraAID)


An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale hit central Italy on August 24. The epicenter was located in the commune of Accumoli, and at least 40 aftershocks were felt in cities such as Rome, Naples, and Florence. Approximately 290 people were killed, and entire towns were reduced to rubble


At ground-zero in the village of Amatrice, Winer works in close coordination with the local Red Cross and the Medical Personal of the Italian Carabinieri. Her role is to work side by side with the rescue teams as they uncover bodies and assist families to identify loved ones trapped under the ruins.


Aid worker Silvana Winer in the destroyed Italian village of Matrice (Photo: IsraAID)
Aid worker Silvana Winer in the destroyed Italian village of Matrice (Photo: IsraAID)


From the ruins of what was once a home, Winer says, "I'm very attuned to the long history of earthquakes in this region having grown up in Italy. It's always painful to see such destruction, beautiful villages in shambles and communities ripped apart."


Dominico Carlucci, a nurse with the Carabinieri, explains the identification process for when bodies are pulled from the rubble. "The corpse arrives in severe condition, often crushed and deformed making them hard to identify. To ease the pain for families, only selected images of the bodies are shown for initial identification purposes. Once a close match is found, families are then allowed to see the body and officially identify it."


IsraAID volunteer Winer speaks with an Italian Carabinieri (Photo: IsraAID)
IsraAID volunteer Winer speaks with an Italian Carabinieri (Photo: IsraAID)


Due to the trauma the bodies sustain, it is important to minimize the family members' exposure to the corpses. Winer helps by guiding families in recalling more specific details that will help with the identification. It is a gruesome task but a critical one which can at least lead to a proper burial and a sense of closure.


IsraAID's dedicated team of professional trauma therapists assists families throughout the process from the identification of bodies to decisions about the burial and funeral arrangements.


"One woman I helped really moved me," Winer recalls. "She clearly just needed someone to listen to her; someone to and be with her during her most difficult time. We spent two days together and she was so grateful for the contact."


Destruction in Matrice (Photo: IsraAID)
Destruction in Matrice (Photo: IsraAID)


She seeks out those who have been most traumatized by the loss and the earthquake and helps them 'get back to reality'. Winer listens and encourages self-expression, a crucial coping mechanism. Although often neglected when communities are overwhelmed by disasters, psycho-social support and grief counseling are crucial in helping to promote community resiliency and in preventing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


"Even though this is a very strong and warm community, almost everyone here got hurt. People here need this kind of support. The survivors and families of the deceased deserve all the help they can get. That's why we're here."




פרסום ראשון: 08.29.16, 20:07
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