Earthquake and tsunami rescue team led by Hertfordshire fire chief on way home from Japan

THE UK Government’s Search and Rescue team in Northern Japan, which is led by Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer, have completed their search of Kamaishi town today (Friday).

Despite an extensive search of residential and industrial properties, no survivors were found.

Heavy snow and falling temperatures six days after the start of the disaster meant the chances of finding anyone alive is “extremely low”.

With that bleak assessment in mind the UK team and their US counterparts have agreed not to extend their rescue operations and will begin to withdraw from Japan.

The team remain fit and well and continue to monitor radiation levels closely.

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No abnormal radiation has been detected in the area.

Earlier this week, the team also completed a search of Ofunato.

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Several bodies were detected, but no survivors were found.

Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer and leader of the UK team Roy Wilsher said: “There are areas of complete devastation; I can’t quite believe it, it’s like a bomb blast. The loss of possessions, property and moreover lives is massive.

“There’s a vacant look in people’s eyes, a look of disbelief.

“This is a real crisis and it will take Japan years to recover.

“I was part of the response team to the Buncefield disaster, which was one of the largest fires ever seen in Europe.

“But nothing compares to this.

“My role has been to oversee communication with people like Embassy staff and other fire services. I help wherever I can.

He added: “My wife understands that we’re doing an important job, helping people but she says, ‘why do you always have to run towards the crisis?’”

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, 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.”

The team was dispatched to Japan following a direct appeal from the Japanese authorities. The British Government team, including 59 UK fire service search and rescue specialists, two rescue dogs and a medical support team, joined the international relief effort in Japan.

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