Update from New Zealand

The Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service International Search and Rescue (ISAR) Team went to New Zealand on 23rd February 2011 for a 15-day operation.

The Cheshire ISAR team helped with the aftermath of the devastating 6.3-magnitude earthquake which hit Christchurch on 22nd February 2011.

The members of the Cheshire team were:

  • Mark Coleman, based at CFRS Headquarters in Winsford. Mark is the Operational Commander in charge of the UK contingency

  • Station Manager Stuart Devereux, based at CFRS HQ, CFRS Team Leader

  • Firefighter Andy Hurst from Winsford Fire Station

  • Crew Manager Gareth Scott, Chester Fire Station

  • Watch Manager Mark Bushell, Runcorn Fire Station

  • Crew Manager Daryl Codling, Knutsford Fire Station

  • Watch Manager Paul Bickerton, CFRS HQ

Here are the updates from the Cheshire ISAR team in New Zealand:

Update:  8th March 2011

The Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service International Search and Rescue (ISAR) Team are now back in the UK.

Cheshire firefighters reflect on an emotional mission

Photographs from New Zealand

Update: 10am on 7th March 2011

The UK-ISAR mission to Christchurch to assist with the search and rescue operations is now at an end.

The team are currently preparing to fly back to the UK.

During their time in New Zealand the team searched and cleared three complete city blocks and also carried out searches on specific buildings.

This included a major operation around the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation office block which had seen multiple rescues in the early stages.

The team carried out a 150-hour search and rescue operation on the site. This involved a demanding a technical operation to deconstruct and search the whole building ensuring that any casualties could be recovered.

Their aim was to locate any casualties. Sadly the team found no survivors. However they did recover 13 bodies. The site was declared free of all victims in the early hours of March 4.

The tremendous efforts of the team have been appreciated by the New Zealand authorities and the families of the victims.

As they prepared to pack up for the journey home the team were invited to a Maori 'Hungi' ceremony at a local Modai (community church) just outside Christchurch. This moving experience came about through the strong links the team had built while working alongside the Maori plant operators all week.

The team are expected to arrive back in the UK on 8th March 2011

Update: 4pm on 1st March 2011

The UK team is continuing to work on the PGG Insurance building. They are currently attempting to remove the central lift shaft, which should give them access to several key rooms that were believed to have been occupied at the time of the collapse.

Although steady progress is being made a number of aftershocks at the scene has made for some difficult working conditions.

The team have not found any survivors but have recovered a number of bodies from the scene.

The number of dead is now 154 with dozens of people still reported as missing.

The team is expected to continue their work for at least the next few days.

Update: 10pm 26th February 2011

Like many of their international colleagues, members of the Cheshire team have worked under testing circumstances in other quake zones including Indonesia.

Paul Bickerton, from the Cheshire team said those experiences had fortified them for the challenges they face in New Zealand.

"The last one that I've been to was Sumatra (in Indonesia), and that was very sporadic in terms of the building collapses, [so] very similar to how it is here," said Paul, pictured outside the Pyne Gould building.

Update: 6pm 26th February 2011

The team is continuing to work on the Pyne Gould Guiness Building. They have still not located any survivors.

The death toll in New Zealand is now 144 and this figure is expected to rise.

Update: 8.30pm Friday, 25th February 2011.

The team is currently working around the clock on the site of the Pyne Gould Guiness Building.

Working alongside doctors and engineers from New Zealand and the UK the team is carrying out an extensive search of the area. 

Unfortunately the team have not yet found any survivors.

A further update will be issued tomorrow.

Update : 11:15am on 24th February 2011

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team has arrived in New Zealand and have begun work to help with the rescue and recovery efforts.

The team, which forms part of a 61 strong UK team arrived in Christchurch at around 12.30pm (local time) on 25th February 2011.

They 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.

Update : 9pm on 23rd February 2011

Station Manager Mark Coleman as part of the advance team has been able to assess the scene of operations and set up the base camp.

The Cheshire team were due to arrive in Christchurch by 10pm our time. They will link up with SM Coleman and a logistics team who will transport their equipment to the base camp.

After receiving a full briefing they will then start work in 12 hour shifts.

Update : 3pm on 23rd February 2011

It has been confirmed that the UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team departed from Heathrow Airport at 15:45hrs GMT on Wednesday 23rd February, and will arrive in Auckland, New Zealand, at 07:05hrs local time.

They will then transfer by air from Auckland to Christchurch, due to arrive at 10:20hrs local time.

They are following a reconnaissance team which left the UK at 10pm on 22nd February 2011. Station Manager Mark Coleman from Cheshire is a member of that reconnaissance team.

The Cheshire Team

The seven-strong Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service ISAR team is joined by teams from West Midlands, Essex, West Sussex, Hampshire, Grampian, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and South Wales. They are supported by a medical team of five doctors and nurses.

The members of the Cheshire team are:

  • Mark Coleman, based at CFRS Headquarters in Winsford. Mark is the Operational Commander in charge of the UK contingency

  • Station Manager Stuart Devereux, based at CFRS HQ, CFRS Team Leader

  • Firefighter Andy Hurst from Winsford Fire Station

  • Crew Manager Gareth Scott, Chester Fire Station

  • Watch Manager Mark Bushell, Runcorn Fire Station

  • Crew Manager Daryl Codling, Knutsford Fire Station

  • Watch Manager Paul Bickerton, CFRS HQ

Update : 11am on 23rd February 2011

75 people are confirmed as dead and 300 are still missing.

The Search and Rescue teams preparing to fly to New Zealand are West Midlands, Cheshire, Essex, West Sussex, Hampshire, Grampian, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and South Wales, supported by a medical team of 5 doctors and nurses.

Teams have also been mobilised from Australia, USA, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore

Update : 4pm on 22nd February 2011

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services International Search and Rescue Team are preparing to fly out to help with the humanitarian efforts in New Zealand.

The team, which forms part of a national unit, will help with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that has caused massive damage.

Keith Roughley from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "We are ready to go out and do all we can to help with the rescue and recovery efforts in New Zealand. We have extensive training and expertise that will hopefully help to make a real difference to the humanitarian operation."

Press Information

For further press information about the International Search and Rescue Team, please call 01606 868 305 or email sian.corrigan@cheshirefire.gov.uk