Move from rescue effort to body recovery for firefighters who left Brentwood for New Zealand

FIREFIGHTERS who left Hutton to help victims of the New Zealand earthquake have seen their mission change from one of rescue to recovering bodies.

Authorities in Christchurch said yesterday (Thursday) there would be no more survivors after the 6.3-magnitude quake hit the city on February 21.

John Hamilton, head of New Zealand’s civil defence teams, said: “As time has gone on, the chance of finding someone alive has diminished and, sadly, there becomes a point where the response effort shifts in focus from rescue to body recovery. We have now reached that point.”

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service confirmed the team will remain in the country helping with operations until Tuesday (March 8).

When they arrived last week, the Essex crew set up in Latimer Square in the centre of the city and met colleagues and doctors from the UK and New Zealand.

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They began a street-by-street search of one part of the city on Saturday. The UK team were then given control of the rescue operation of the Pyne Gould Corporation building, which was flattened in the quake.

The six making up Essex’s rescue team include co-ordinator Terry Jewell; assistant divisional officer Rudy Jackson and sub-officer Gary Wootton, who were all previously based at the service’s headquarters when it was in Hutton, from where the team left last week.

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Essex team co-ordinator, Terry said: “The city is suffering aftershocks which can cause problems but has not hampered us too badly.

“We have full control over the search of one building and have our own safety and site management procedures in place in our zone. The teams spirits remain high and everyone is fit and well.”

More than 160 people are confirmed dead and more than 200 are missing.

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