Hatzola volunteers save Somali toddler

By Robyn Rosen, July 7, 2011

Two strictly Orthodox men and a medic from Hatzola, the Charedi ambulance service, have saved a young London Somali boy from a fire.

Last Thursday Josh Berkovitz ran into a blazing house in Tottenham, north London, next door to his office, Pride Autos, after he heard a mother screaming that her baby was trapped in the building.

He was alerted by colleague Nochem Perlberger, a former paramedic in Israel, who smelt burning near the used car showroom, just yards from the house.

"I smelt burning plastic and then suddenly heard terrible screaming outside," he said. "A woman was shouting hysterically: 'My child is inside'."

Mr Berkovitz and another passer-by ran into the house while Mr Perlberger called the police, fire brigade and Hatzola. Mr Berkovitz ran up the stairs inside the house where he saw the father carrying his son. He took the child and ran down the stairs. The two-year-old, named as Arafat Hassan, was taken to a nearby restaurant and put under a running tap.

David Herzka, who has volunteered for Hatzola for 24 years, was first on the scene, arriving within two minutes.

"I was in my office nearby when I received the call," he said. "I dropped everything, grabbed my medical bag and got in the car.

"When I arrived, I saw the boy had around 70 per cent burns. It was terrible. I immediately cut off his remaining clothes, applied burn gel and gave him oxygen."

A London ambulance arrived about seven minutes later and continued to treat the boy before taking him to hospital. Around 20 firefighters battled the fire for more than an hour before it was under control.

The boy, who was taken by ambulance to hospital as well as a 25-year-old woman suffering from smoke inhalation and a 20-year-old man, was in a critical condition at the time of going to print.

Last updated: 1:09pm, July 7 2011