A team of 61 UK fire & rescue personnel has been deployed to New Zealand to assist
with the rescue and recovery efforts following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch
on 22 February.
An advance party of six personnel arrived in Christchurch early on 24 February. The
remainder of the team, drawn from the urban search & rescue units in Cheshire, Essex,
Grampian, Hampshire, Leicestershire, South Wales, West Sussex and West Midlands,
arrived on the following day with 10 tonnes of equipment to join up with other search
and rescue experts from Australia, Japan and the USA.
West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service provides the Logistics Team for overseas incidents
involving the United Kingdom International Search & Rescue Team. UKISART has previously
been deployed to Indonesia and Haiti.
The Christchurch earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck at 12.51
local time when the city was at its busiest. By 27 February over 140 people were
known to have died.
UK Search & Rescue Team Returns from New Zealand
The United Kingdom International Search & Rescue Team (UKISART) deployed to New Zealand
following the Christchurch earthquake in February returned home on 8 March. The remaining
search & rescue workload is diminishing fast and will be dealt with by New Zealand
and Australian teams who will remain on the ground for some time.
The UK team searched and cleared three complete city blocks and also carried out
searches of specific buildings. The collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC Insurance)
office block, which had seen multiple rescues in the early stages, was handed over
to them shortly after their arrival on Friday, 25 February with around 20 people
still reported missing in the building. The team then spent over 150 hours of round
the clock operations to search the entire structure. This required methodical and
careful delayering and deconstruction of the whole building to ensure any casualties
were recovered. The difficult process resulted in the team finding and recovering
13 victims from various parts and levels of the building, with the site declared
clear of all victims in the early hours of Friday, 4th March.
By 7 March 166 people were known to have died and the death toll was expected to
rise to more than 200 as rescuers continued to search for bodies in the rubble.
UK Search & Rescue Team Sent to Japan
UK search & rescue experts have once again been deployed abroad to assist with a
disaster, this time to Japan. At 14.46 local time (05.46 GMT) on Friday, 11 March
an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude struck in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles north-east
of Tokyo, triggering a 10 metre high tsunami. The quake was about 8,000 times more
powerful than the New Zealand one from which UK rescue teams had just returned and
is the fifth biggest in the world since 1900.
On Saturday, 12 March, 63 personnel, drawn from Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire,
Kent, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Mid & West Wales, West Midlands and West Sussex,
left Manchester Airport with two search dogs and 11 tonnes of equipment. West Sussex
Fire & Rescue Service provides the logistical support for the UK International Search
& Rescue Team (UKISART) and two of their personnel sent to Japan had only just returned
from the New Zealand earthquake. The team is joined by Chief Fire Officer Roy Wilsher
of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, who is representing the Chief Fire Officers’
Association on the mission.
All UKISAR staff are trained to use specialist equipment capable of handling a range
of major emergencies, with the capacity to lift, cut and remove concrete and rubble
from collapsed structures. Sophisticated equipment for finding casualties, including
special cameras and listening devices, is also available. The tools they use can
penetrate reinforced concrete and metal to gain access to victims and the use of
shoring equipment allows team members to maintain a safe working position during
rescue and recovery operations. The teams are designed to be entirely self-sufficient,
with their own tents and food for up to 10 days.
At least 1,300 people are believed to have been killed by the earthquake and resultant
tsunami but thousands more are missing, including 10,000 from the coastal town of
Minamisanriku. Rescue teams from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and
Singapore are also lending their assistance and teams from 45 countries across the
world are thought to be ready to help.
UK Search & Rescue Team Back Home From Japan
The UK International Search & Rescue Team sent to Japan on 12 March to assist with
rescue efforts following the earthquake and tsunami there has returned home. The
team worked closely with Californian colleagues from Fairfax County and Los Angeles
County in the coastal towns of Ofunato and Kamaishi searching for survivors but,
despite an extensive search of residential and industrial properties, no-one was
Heavy snow and falling temperatures reduced the chances of finding survivors to an
extremely low level and, after discussion with the Japanese disaster authorities,
the UK team and their US counterparts agreed not to extend their rescue operations.
The UK team, drawn from Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire,
Lincolnshire, Mid & West Wales, West Midlands and West Sussex, arrived home on Saturday,
19 March after a week away.
The earthquake, with a revised magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, struck at 14.46
local time (05.46 GMT) on Friday, 11 March in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles north-east
of Tokyo, triggering a 10 metre high tsunami. By the time the UK team had arrived
home, the number of people known to have died was 7,653 which, together with those
officially listed as missing, brought the expected death toll to nearly 20,000. It
is reported that thousands more remain unaccounted for.
Kent Fire Museum Closes
The Kent Fire & Rescue Museum has been fighting for survival since the service decided
early in 2010 that it needed the space to consolidate office accommodation and that
the museum building was no longer suitable for public access. With support from an
enthusiastic Chief Officer, the museum started from small beginnings in 1950 and
by 1963 was housed in dedicated accommodation at Brigade Headquarters. Gradually
the collection was built up to the present superb collection of veteran fire engines
ranging from hand-drawn manual pumps and horse-drawn steamers to a Leyland Braidwood
pump escape and a war-time ATV and trailer pump. Post-war appliances, housed in fire
stations around the county, included water tenders and a turntable ladder from the
1950s and even a Dennis SS but these were sold off from the mid-1990s onwards. The
museum is also home to a fantastic collection of firefighting artefacts on a smaller
scale ranging from Victorian helmets, fire marks, uniforms and other memorabilia
up to more modern equipment preserved in the certain knowledge that it will form
an important part of tomorrow's history. Original records from insurance and other
early brigades are preserved along with extensive archives and photographs showing
the development of firefighting in Kent up to the present day.
Efforts to rehouse the museum in alternative premises have come to nothing and in
July 2011 the entire collection was put into store, with every possibility that the
remaining motor vehicles would be sold. A 'virtual museum' is being created on line
but unless a suitable new home can be found the real hands-on museum, enthusiastically
developed by a succession of part-time curators and volunteers, will no longer be
available to the people of Kent, former firefighters and their families, historians
and fire service enthusiasts.