Haiti Earthquake: Silence Amid Chaos Leads to Victims' Rescue

Amid chaos in Haiti, search teams call for silence to find victims.

ByABC News
January 14, 2010, 11:34 AM

Jan. 14, 2010— -- On the streets of earthquake ravaged Haiti where children beg for food and women wail over the bodies of their dead husbands there are calls for absolute silence.

Racing to find survivors buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings before it's too late, specialized search and rescue teams know their only indication that a victim is trapped may be a faint scratching or a weakened cry for help.

It's a difficult task in a densely populated city like Port-au-Prince, where the city's approximately 3 million residents have flooded the crumbled streets afraid to seek shelter because of continuing aftershocks.

Yet when the calls go out, the silence is largely granted even by those who are the most panicked.

"They know the rescuers are using this to save people," said Battalion Chief Bob Zoldos of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue unit, one of the first to reach Haiti.

And it's not as simple as hushing bystanders. Simple background noise such as the sound of running water or rescue crews working to free a victim five buildings away can throw off a team's search, wasting valuable time.

While on his first mission to the 1998 embassy boming in Kenya, "we would actually announce to everyone there that we need silence and the amazing thing was that the chaos actually did stop," Zoldos said.

The next year, when he was in Turkey after the massive earthquake that killed more than 18,000 people, victims did the same.

"That was more difficult, but still you could get more people in the area to quiet down," he said. "It can be done."

And in a place like Haiti, where citizens are desperate to find their loved ones, Zoldos said he expects similar cooperation.

Zoldos' colleagues with the Virginia Task Force 1 are already at work in Haiti -- 72 rescuers were dispatched Wednesday along with six dogs. Zoldos will lead the second team being prepped for deployment.