Search and rescue in Japan

Cheshire's search dog Bryn and handler Steve Buckley were part of a 63-strong UK International Search and Rescue Team who flew to Japan to help in the aftermath of the major earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Press release

Cheshire Firefighter Steve Buckley and Border collie search dog Bryn have returned home after being deployed to Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

They arrived back at Manchester airport on Saturday following a week away where they were seconded to an International Search And Rescue (ISAR) team from Kent

Read the full press release - Steve and Bryn return from Japan

Update 4pm 18th March 2011

The UK-ISAR team, including Cheshire's search dog Bryn and his handler Steve Buckley, are due back in the UK on Saturday 19th March 2010.

Update: 3:30pm 17th March 2011

The UK Search and Rescue team in Northern Japan have completed their search of Kamaishi town today.

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

Heavy snow and falling temperatures six days after the start of the disaster mean there is now is an extremely low chance of finding survivors.

Therefore following a discussion with the Japanese disaster authorities, 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. No abnormal radiation has been detected in the area.

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."

Earlier this week, the team also completed a search of Ofunato. Several bodies were detected, but no survivors were found.

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.

Update: 10am on 16th March 2011

Bryn the search and rescue dog was injured during yesterday's activity. He required several stitches to a cut, however he has been declared fit to return to work and his handler Steve says that he is in good spirits.

The team is now working in Kamaishi. They will work throughout the day, however due to a lack of power they are unable to continue through the night.

There are still more than 1000 people reported missing in the area. So far the team have not located any survivors.

The snowy conditions that have set in are presenting further challenges to the team.

Further updates will be issued as we have them.

Update: 10am on 15th March 2011

The UK team have joined with their USA colleagues and are currently carrying out a thorough search of the town of Ofunato.

The 200 strong team have divided the town into a grid to enable a through search to be conducted. They expect that it will take at least two days to complete the search.

The joint team continue to monitor for any signs of radiation contamination with negative results.

Update: 3pm on 14th March 2011

The 63-strong UK International Search and Rescue (UK-ISAR) team has now arrived at the destination of Ofunato City.

The UK-ISAR team are with the U.S. teams from Fairfax County and Los Angeles County.

The joint teams are now establishing a tented base of operations to work from and will be commencing search operations within the locality.

The pictures of the devastated town indicate that there are numerous large buildings damaged but still standing that may yield survivors.

At this stage of the operation the search dogs, such as Bryn from Cheshire, will be highly effective at detecting signs of life over the large areas involved.

If there are any signs of life the teams will then concentrate their efforts in these areas with specialist tools that can penetrate reinforced concrete and metal to gain access to victims and shoring equipment that allows team members to maintain a safe working position during rescue operations.

Update: 8pm on 13th March 2011

Although Bryn and Steve, a firefighter based at Knutsford, were not required as part of the Cheshire team which went over to New Zealand following the recent earthquake, this time they have joined firefighters from Kent, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Mid and West Wales and the West Midlands for this latest rescue mission.

The UK team flew out on Saturday night.

They landed at a military base in the north of Japan.

The UK team have joined up with Amercian rescue workers and have been tasked with supporting a search and rescue effort in the coastal town of Ofunato.

They are expected to travel to the town shortly.

Further information

More information about the Dog Team