WBTV on the ground in Ecuador after devastating earthquake

Rescuers on the ground in Ecuador trying to save earthquake victims

ECUADOR (WBTV) - The moment disaster strikes - anywhere on the planet - North Carolina-based Samaritan's Purse springs into action.

Saturday, that happened thousands of miles away in Ecuador when a 7.8 magnitude ripped apart the country's northern coast.

Hundreds are dead and thousands are injured. The country is broken and Samaritan's Purse is stepping in, hoping to help pick up the pieces.

Just hours after the initial quake hit, the organization deployed 30 volunteers. That was just the beginning of their massive relief effort.

"Right now, preliminary numbers are 500 or so causalities and several thousand who have been injured," the Emergency Field Hospital Readiness Manager said.

Wednesday morning, Samaritan's Purse personnel loaded their newly refurbished plane with supplies and personnel and headed south towards Ecuador.

"We have to prepare for anything. So we bring our own ability to purify water to produce our own electricity," Emergency Medical Specialist, Dr. Elliott Tenpenny, said.

The organization invited WBTV's Sarah-Blake Morgan to fly with them and document their journey. She was the only reporter on the flight.

The DC-8 aircraft carried everything needed for Samaritans Purse to build an Emergency Field Hospital on the ground in Ecuador.

"Broken bones, open fractures, trauma of all sorts of shapes and sizes. It's amazing what we can do with very little as doctors, as nurses. We think we need so much technology," Tenpenny said.

They expect to have the facility operational and treating patients by Thursday afternoon.

"What saves lives in a disaster is getting there first and getting there fast," Tenpenny said.

The field hospital will house an emergency room, operating theater, in-patient beds, outpatient clinic and a pharmacy.

Samaritan's Purse told WBTV the facility will be staffed with 40 medical personnel every day.

"Yes, we're providing medical care, medical assistance to those who have been affected. But at the same time, we're sharing the love of Christ throughout our time there," Adcock said.

Along with their medical efforts, Samaritan's Purse is already working to supply clean water to more than 50,000 people and housing for more than 5,000 families in Ecuador.

Samaritan's Purse Surgeon and Boone native, Dr. Dick Furman, has been with the organization from the start. He says preparing for these trips is tough.

"I expect to see a lot of turmoil, suffering, death, pain," Furman said.

Furman says there won't be much time to make life altering decisions in the operating room.

"There will be people there who you'll have to decide can you help this person who needs a lot of help or there are ten others who also need help, but this one is going to take all of your time," Furman said.

Though the initial earthquake shook through Ecuador five days ago, aftershocks are still a threat.

"We have instructed our team to stay out of buildings. We're building the emergency field hospital inside of tents, so that should be safe," Isaacs said.

The organizations' DC-8 aircraft returned to Greensboro, Thursday afternoon. It will fly back to Ecuador with more supplies Friday morning.

For more information, visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

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