Earthquake survivors in Pakistan find comfort in outdoor hospital

It's late at night, and when the rains soak through the wedding tents set up on the hospital lawn, drenching the doctors, volunteers and terrified patients, it seems there could be few worse places anywhere. But at least there's electricity in Abbottabad, and medicine and clean water. There are doctors to treat the injuries of earthquake survivors and volunteers to bring them food. In this part of northwest Pakistan, where some entire towns were leveled by Saturday's powerful earthquake, Abbottabad is now a haven.

Within hours of the quake, doctors at the Ayub Medical Center had moved their entire operation outside, fearing another jolt could bring the buildings down. They quickly re-created the hospital under a series of large tents normally used for wedding celebrations, moving the various wards to lawns and parking lots. The suddenly chaotic complex, in a town that largely escaped the destruction, is the best hope for tens of thousands of injured people. "We still have to do whatever we can, but we have to do it outside," said Hina Khan, a 25-year-old medical intern who smiles despite her obvious exhaustion.

Abbottabad, a university town in the hills leading to the Hindu Kush mountains, is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the epicenter of the 7.6-magnitude quake, which killed tens of thousands of people and left many more injured. Only a few dozen people are thought to have died here, and most buildings remain intact.

There was little obvious damage to the sprawling medical center, though many, including most patients and many doctors, worry that the main three-story hospital building sustained structural damage and may be far more flimsy than it appears. So while doctors began officially encouraging patients on Monday to move inside, perhaps 80 percent remained on the lawn into the night.

Now, amid the wail of sirens and the incessant squall of announcements over the hospital loudspeaker, a semi-organized stream of doctors, interns and medical students are treating thousands of quake survivors. The lawns are scattered with the evidence of medical care: bloody cotton swabs, used rubber gloves, metal racks holding empty IV bags, reports the AP. I.L.

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