Cheshire firefighters reflect on New Zealand rescue operation
The seven firefighters, who are all members of the UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team, are now back after a 15-day operation in Christchurch.
Station Manager, Mark Coleman who was Operational Commander of the UK Team said: "When we were arrived we were met by a scene of total devastation - it was shocking to see what was obviously a thriving community silenced by such a traumatic event. We focused on using our specialist skills and training to try and locate any further casualties."
During their time in New Zealand the team searched and cleared three complete city blocks and also carried out searches on specific buildings.
This included a major operation around the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation office block which had seen multiple rescues in the early stages.
Mark explained: "We carried out a 150-hour search and rescue operation on the site. This involved a demanding a technical operation to deconstruct and search the whole building ensuring that any casualties could be recovered."
A number of aftershocks, some measuring as high as 5 on the Richter Scale proved especially challenging for the team. Sadly the team found no survivors in the building. However, they did recover 13 bodies, which helped give closure to the families of the victims. The tremendous efforts of the team have been appreciated by the New Zealand authorities and the people of Christchurch.
Mark concluded: "I don't think there was a single member of the UK team who did not at some time shed a tear. I think what touched us most was the encouragement, support and gratitude shown to us by the New Zealand people. Personally, I will never forget either this mission or the people we met and I am really glad that we were able to make a difference and help them recover from this terrible event."
Posted: 10.37am, 10.03.11
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