Crews tell of rescue effort in Indonesia

ESSEX fire crews have spoken about the devastation they witnessed when they joined the rescue effort in the aftermath of the Indonesian earthquake.

James Hore

By James Hore

ESSEX fire crews have spoken about the devastation they witnessed when they joined the rescue effort in the aftermath of the Indonesian earthquake.

The seven-strong team of rescue experts, along with their dog Darcy, flew out from RAF Brize Norton in the early hours of Saturday morning and immediately set to work.

They were faced with a scene of widespread destruction and tried in vain to rescue people from the horrific mudslides that have swept through the country.

Station Officer Terry Webb, who is normally based in Lexden, said: “We went to an area where a mudslide had completely covered three villages and buried around 600 people.

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“We put the dog on the area and did a ground search but no one had survived the mud slide, they didn't stand a chance.

“As soon as we got here, we were attached to the Australian rescue team and basically we hit the ground running.

“There was so much that needed to be done that the entire team, we got started straight away.

“It's been tough - it's hot and humid with extremely heavy rains as the monsoon season begins but there's too much to be done to worry about it.”

The team travelled with colleagues from other fire and rescue services as part of a 65-strong contingent of rescue experts from UK ISAR (International Search and Rescue).

It is the first time Darcy, Essex's rescue dog, has been flown out to a disaster zone to put her training into real-life operation.

“The search and rescue operation is coming to an end with hopes of finding anyone buried and alive now quite remote. So now the humanitarian phase of the international effort is beginning.

“We will now assist with this work, distributing clean water and food, blankets and the like. We also hope to help clear out a school which has been left in a terrible state by the mud slides.

“Seeing how the locals have reacted has been a very humbling. Despite the death and destruction of their families and homes and the suffering, they have show real inner strength and resilience through it all,” he added.

Essex' urban search and rescue team is one of 20 nationwide and trained to respond to different scenarios including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents as well as search and rescue missions, major flooding and transport incidents.

The team works out of a purpose-built base in Lexden, Colchester, but its crew members come from all over the county.