UK rescue team heading home

A British search and rescue team called off its mission in Japan today and made plans to leave the country after finding no survivors amid the ruins.

The UK International Search and Rescue workers had scoured Kamaishi town in northern Japan but no-one was pulled from the debris alive.

As heavy snow fell and temperatures plummeted, they acknowledged that six days after the start of the disaster there was now an "extremely low chance" of finding anyone.

The workers, drawn from UK fire services, have carried out an extensive search of residential and industrial properties in the town.

But after a discussion with the Japanese disaster authorities, the UK team and their US counterparts agreed not to extend their rescue operations.

They have now left their base and are making arrangements to leave the country in the next few days.

The team remain fit and well and continue to monitor radiation levels closely, the Department for International Development said.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "We are all extremely proud of the work of the UK fire and rescue team.

"Sadly the chance of them finding further survivors is now extremely low and so their specialist skills are no longer necessary in Japan. We have therefore agreed with the Japanese authorities that we will withdraw our team.

"I am proud that, despite very difficult conditions, the UK fire and rescue service's dedication and professionalism was able to help Japan in its hour of need."

Earlier this week, the team also completed a search of the coastal town of Ofunato. Several bodies were unearthed, but no survivors were found.

The team, dispatched to the stricken country following a direct appeal from the Japanese authorities, includes 59 UK fire service search and rescue specialists, two rescue dogs and a medical support team.