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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
UK rescuers stood down
The World Trade Center was destroyed in the attack
The World Trade Center was destroyed in the attack
A British rescue team which offered to aid the search for survivors after a series of terror attacks on the US has been told it is not required.

Britain had formally offered to assist in the operation to search for survivors of the World Trade Center atrocity in New York, but the US has said the help is not needed.

Prime Minister Tony Blair made an offer to President George W Bush to assist in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the New York building and the Pentagon in Washington DC.

A senior member of Britain's International Rescue Corps (IRC) said his team, based at Grangemouth in Scotland, had been ready to provide help for the emergency teams but had now been stood down.

Bearing in mind the way these buildings collapsed, and their size, it is likely there will be some pockets in which people could survive

Gary O'Shea from IRC

The IRC had offered 18 personnel trained in assisting in emergency situations.

The aid workers were part of a 150-strong force of firefighters and emergency service teams offered by Mr Blair.

Gary O'Shea, assistant operations director at the rescue organisation compared the disaster with major earthquake incidents such as those which have recently hit India, Turkey and Japan.

The cause might be different but the effect was the same - buildings collapsing and burying the people inside them.

"Bearing in mind the way these buildings collapsed, and their size, it is likely there will be some pockets in which people could survive," said Mr O'Shea.

"Experience and knowledge tell us that when buildings collapse voids are created and people can be trapped in these voids.

Mental grid

"You have got to focus on hope, irrespective of the nature of the disaster."

He said the usual approach would be to create a "mental grid", splitting the disaster zone up into squares which are searched one-by-one. This ensures that the same areas are not needlessly searched twice.

Heavy equipment cannot be used. Instead rescuers have to work patiently through the rubble, layer by layer, using thermal imaging equipment, sniffer dogs, and sensitive microphones to look for signs of life.

Mr O'Shea added: "You may be prioritised to go to a particular grid first; someone may have heard something, or the dogs might have indicated that somebody's there.

"You will also be looking at blue-prints of the building. You may be able to identify areas that are communal, such as a canteen, shop or boardroom." He was not willing to hazard a guess at how long the search might take. It depended on the scale of the resources put into the operation and the difficulties encountered.

After the 1999 earthquake which devastated Armenia City in Colombia, a team of 1,700 rescue workers managed to clear the flattened city in just four days.

See also:

11 Sep 01 | Americas
US rocked by terrorist attacks
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair speaks of 'shock and outrage'
12 Sep 01 | UK Politics
TUC conference could end early
11 Sep 01 | UK
UK buildings evacuated
11 Sep 01 | Americas
Cockpit drama of doomed planes
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