Firefighters fly out to disaster area

A TEAM of Essex firefighters were due to fly out to Indonesia this morningto help in an international search and rescue operation.

Anthony Bond

A TEAM of Essex firefighters were due to fly out to Indonesia this morningto help in an international search and rescue operation.

The eight-strong team, including a sniffer dog called Darcy, was due to fly from Gatwick Airport at 1.30am this morning to join the British contingent of the search and rescue effort in Sumatra.

It follows a massive earthquake measuring 7.6 in magnitude on Wednesday which could eventually bring the death toll into the thousands.

Many members of the team - which includes a firefighter from Harwich - are trained in urban search and rescue. They are particularly experienced in searching in areas where buildings have collapsed for casualties.

Assistant chief fire officer Gordon Hunter said last night: “This is exactly the type of eventuality that the unique expert specialist team is trained for. We are proud that we are able to offer expertise to an international rescue operation.

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“We are sending out a very experienced group of officers to work with rescue teams in the disaster area where we will provide valuable support and know how to this operation and hopefully we will be able to help save lives.

“Everything these officers learn they will be able to bring back to Essex to be used in protecting local communities as part of our resilience arrangements."

The team were deployed from Essex fire service's Hutton base at 9pm last night and were due to convene with other UK teams at a fire station near Gatwick Airport at 10pm for a briefing.

Officials are reporting that the death toll has reached 777 in Sumatra but unconfirmed reports say more than 1,000 have died.

Essex fire service said the team will be provided with equipment for the rescue mission so it will not detract from emergency situations in the county.