UK team to join quake rescue effort

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The Independent Online

A UK disaster relief team is to join the search-and-rescue effort in New Zealand after the devastating earthquake.

Grampian Fire and Rescue Service said it was sending an international search-and-rescue (ISAR) team to provide assistance following the earthquake.

Another search-and-rescue team is also on standby.

Rapid UK, based in Gloucester, have offered their assistance to the New Zealand Government.

The earthquake, which registered 6.3 on the richter scale, hit Christchurch, leaving at least 65 dead.

Search-and-rescue teams are working through the night in the devastated city on South Island after reports that at least 100 people are trapped in ruined buildings.

Rapid UK members have more than 20 years' experience and chief executive Clive Hodges said they are ready to join the hunt for survivors.

"We have made a formal offer of assistance to the New Zealand Government and through their High Commission and direct to the National Civil Defence HQ in Wellington," he said.

"We have volunteers on stand-by but we don't go unless we are asked.

"We have explained who we are and what our capabilities are, and if they feel they need our assistance they will contact us.

"If we are wanted or needed, we will be out there, but it will take a long time to get there, because it really is the other side of the world."

If the team are asked to go, the earliest flight they could take would be tonight, but it would take days to reach the city.

"There are other teams who are closer that can provide assistance," Mr Hodges said.

"New Zealand have a very good domestic search-and-rescue capability and certainly Australia, Singapore and Japan, who we have worked with, also have teams.

"They can be there much quicker than we ever could but we will actively monitor the situation for as long as the search-and-rescue is in effect out there."

Rapid UK - an acronym for Rescue And Preparedness In Disasters - also deployed to Indonesia in 2009 after a major earthquake killed more than 1,100 people when it struck Padang.

They are an experienced search-and-rescue team with the knowledge and capability to search collapsed buildings.

The team uses specialist equipment including thermal cameras and lifting gear to locate survivors and get them out safely.

They say their primary objectives are the relief of human suffering and distress in any part of the world resulting from natural disasters.