Herts fire chief leads Japan rescue search

THE Hertfordshire fire chief is leading the UK’s search and rescue team trawling through the devastation to find earthquake survivors in Japan.

Roy Wilsher and the rest of the team of approximately 60 people flew out from Manchester on Saturday afternoon to assist with the rescue operations.

The team arrived in Northern Japan on Sunday afternoon and travelled by land to Ofunato to establish a base of operations.

Ofunato had a population of almost 42,000 and suffered extensive tsunami damage with hundreds of people known to be missing.

Emotional scenes greeted the team as they arrived with some survivors stopping in the streets and crying as the convoy, made up of British and American aid workers, of more than 25 vehicles travelled the 200 kilometres from the air base to Ofunato.

Mr Wilsher said: “It was a very moving scene and we are pleased that we have now arrived and can look to rescue as many people as possible from this devastated area of North East Japan.

“Our priority is searching for survivors and closely monitoring the situation with the nuclear plant, which is less than 100 kilometres away from us.

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“There is a lot of devastation all around and this a challenging time for everyone involved. But we will focus on what we are here to do as this is what we train for. I feel privileged to be able to lead a team of highly skilled and professional people, to provide help at a time when the people of Japan need us most.”

Mr Wilsher is chief fire officer of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and director of operations response for the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA).

He was also the Fire and Rescue Service Gold Commander at the major fire at the Buncefield Oil Storage Depot back in 2005 and led Exercise Orion last year, an international earthquake training exercise.