Firefighters helping out after New Zealand quake

Reporter:

Robert Platt

A FIREFIGHTER from Wrexham has spent the weekend in New Zealand searching for survivors of Christchurch’s devastating earthquake.

Gareth Scott is crew manager for the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service team based at Chester but as a member of the UK’s International Search and Rescue team he has been enlisted to work amid the rubble and ruin left by the 6.3-magnitude quake which hit on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Scott, a member of the Côr Meibion Rhos Male Voice Choir, along with 61 other volunteers from across the country, had been expected to land on Thursday but was delayed in Los Angeles while the plane picked up an American rescue team and so did not arrive in the disaster zone until Friday afternoon local time.

They have spent the weekend searching dangerously unstable ruins in Christchurch, near to where the earthquake's epicentre struck.

The team have been updating people back home via the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

Team member Paul Bickerton said experiences the Cheshire team have had working in other quake zones had prepared them for the challenges they face on New Zealand’s south island.

He said: “The last one that I’ve been to was Sumatra (Indonesia) and that was very sporadic in terms of the building collapses, so very similar to how it is here.”

The team has been working around the clock on the Pyne Gould Guiness Building, which was flattened in the earthquake. At their last update they had not located any survivors.

More than 200 people remain missing or trapped in the rubble in what is being described as New Zealand’s worst natural disaster in more than 80 years. Experts fear as many as 200 could be dead.

There are now more than 2,500 reported injuries, with 175 of them serious.

The earthquake was Christchurch’s second major tremor in five months. The electricity supply has been restored to 60 per cent of the city, but officials warned full restoration could take weeks.

Hundreds of foreign search and rescue specialists from the US, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan have also arrived to help New Zealand police and soldiers in the rescue effort.

Gareth is working alongside six fellow Cheshire firefighters, Mark Coleman based at Winsford, station manager Stuart Devereux, firefighter Andy Hurst, based at Winsford, watch manager Mark Bushell from Runcorn, firefighter Steve Buckley and crew manager Daryl Codling from Knutsford Fire Station and watch manager Paul Bickerton.

A spokesman for Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “The team were met and briefed on arrival by the members of the UK ISAR team who had gone out as an advance party the day before.

“The team are now involved in search and rescue operations around the collapsed buildings in the Christchurch area and will be working in 12-hour shifts.”

See full story in the Leader

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