THE six West Sussex firefighters who are part of the UK search and rescue team helping victims of the New Zealand earthquake are expected to return to the UK next week.
The New Zealand government confirmed earlier today “with considerable sorrow and frustration” that the mission for emergency teams responding to the earthquake has now switched from search and rescue, to one of body recovery.
More than 70 people were rescued from the rubble of collapsed buildings within 24 hours of the earthquake striking 21st February 21, but no one has been found alive for more than one week
Despite the efforts and hard work from all the national and international rescue teams working in Christchurch, hopes of finding further casualties alive has now ended. The switch of emphasis was confirmed by the New Zealand Civil Defence Minister who said his country “now had to face the reality that there is no chance anyone could have survived for this long.”
There are 161 confirmed fatalities so far, although the final number is expected to reach at least 240. The UK search team that has been working on the Pyne Gould Guinness building have recovered 13 fatalities.
With the rescue phase now ended, arrangements are being made for all the international search teams to return home.
Organising transportation for tonnes of equipment and finding available seats on flights in these circumstances is not easy or straightforward, and the 61-strong UK ISAR team of firefighters and medics will be flown back on four separate flights.