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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 04:57 GMT 05:57 UK
New outbreak role for army
Foot-and-mouth pyre
Pyres became a familiar site during the crisis
The army and police will be drafted in immediately in the event of a future foot-and-mouth outbreak, it has been reported.

The government was heavily criticised by farmers and opposition MPs for not bringing in soldiers earlier to handle the logistics of culling and disposing of animals.

The 2,030 cases of the disease led to the culling of more than 4m animals and the slaughter of another 2m for welfare reasons.

The battle to slaughter on infected farms within 24 hours of a report of the disease was won after the army became involved in co-ordination.

Disposal of the animals by rendering, burying and burning on funeral pyres also benefited from military help.

Command centres

Troops were only involved a month after the first outbreak at an Essex abattoir on 20 February last year.

At the peak of the outbreak, more than 2,000 armed forces personnel were involved, with command centres in hotspots, and a level of organisation said to be more complicated than UK involvement in the Gulf War.

The Financial Times reported that ministers would involve the military from day one in any future outbreak.

They fear the "Lessons Learned" inquiry undertaken by Dr Iain Anderson could accuse the government of a serious error.

The paper quoted one minister as saying: "Anderson's very interested in command control.

Australian model

"He thinks we should have brought the army and police in on day one."

Beefed-up contingency planning could be based on a model used in Australia.

The newspaper said the government had failed in its submission to Dr Anderson to answer criticisms that the delays in slaughter and disposal may have prolonged the disease.

The submission read: "The armed forces were crucial to the logistical operation.

"The MoD was informed at the outset of the epidemic, and the armed forces were fully brought in once it was clear the outbreak was a serious national one, and the size of the disposal challenge became clear."

See also:

03 Mar 02 | England
Disease scare farm gets all clear
05 Mar 01 | UK
Foot-and-mouth factfile
27 Feb 02 | England
Sentinels on guard against disease
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