Fire Minister Bob Neill gave the keynote speech at the Exercise Orion conference, and was glowing in his praise of the multi-agency, multi-national event. He said: "I see Exercise Orion and this conference as a great opportunity to share our experiences and to learn from each other.

"The UK government takes seriously its role in international crisis response and is fully committed to providing assistance alongside other governments to help where we can. This assistance is provided in many ways through our Department for International Development.

"It is sad to say that no matter what we do, natural disasters will continue to occur without any warning. Some of us here today have had personal experience of dealing with disasters and the devastating impact they can have. And, although each example we could give is different, many disasters are similar in a number of ways.

"The UK has a well-developed response to emergencies but we can always learn from each other. What is important for all of us is that we are better prepared to deal with disasters and their consequences; and that, the approaches we take are constantly evaluated to identify where we might improve. It is exercises like Orion and conferences like these that hold tremendous value to those who organise and take part in assisting affected communities and will undoubtedly inform our thinking for the future."

For footage of the Minister's conference address, see FIRE TV.