NEWCASTLE (AP) – People in most of the world don’t realize the extent of the destruction caused by last month’s earthquake in Pakistan that has claimed more than 80,000 lives, says the organizer of a team of relief volunteers from Maine.

Millions of people also lost their homes in the Oct. 8 earthquake, which devastated the Pakistan-India border region. The destruction and human misery was so great that members of the Maine-based team had trouble describing it.

“I don’t think that people realize just how bad the devastation was,” said Dr. Rifat Zaidi, who organized the relief mission. “It got swept away by all the other disasters that have occurred around the world.”

Zaidi, an orthopedic surgeon, emergency room physician Carl D’Amato and two nurses, Valerie Drever and Holly Bosworth, all from Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta, returned to Maine early Monday from Pakistan.

Zaidi, a native Pakistani, attended medical school in Islamabad and practiced medicine in Pakistan for five years before moving to Newcastle in 2002. He said his mother, brother and other relatives in Pakistan were OK after the quake.

As the disaster unfolded, Zaidi realized that his expertise could help many victims, especially those who were injured when buildings collapsed. He decided to organize a relief mission and raised about $20,000 for supplies. The other three volunteered to join him.

“It was Dr. Zaidi’s idea to do this mission, although he likes to spread the credit around. He raised most of the money by himself,” said Scott Shott, spokesman for the hospital.

After arriving in Islamabad on Nov. 1, Zaidi and Drever established a makeshift operating room at a private hospital and handled about 30 surgeries, most involving broken bones. They also donated blankets, tents and medical supplies.

D’Amato and Bosworth visited Balakot, a village of about 35,000 people in the northern, mountainous regions of Pakistan. Bosworth said she treated an average of more than 100 patients a day.

“It was extremely rewarding,” she said. “They were so happy to see us. I really think we lifted people’s spirits just by being there.”

Information from: Portland Press Herald,

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