Page last updated at 19:40 GMT, Saturday, 3 October 2009 20:40 UK

UK experts hunt quake survivors

Loading aid at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire
17 tonnes of aid is on its way to Padang

British aid workers have joined the hunt for survivors in Indonesia following a massive earthquake.

Twenty-six search and rescue experts from charities Rapid UK and International Rescue Corps are involved in the relief effort in Sumatra.

A 63-strong search and rescue team sent by the Department for International Development (DfID) was due to arrive at 0245 local time (2045 BST).

The quake killed at least 1,100 people when it struck Padang on Wednesday.

It is feared 3,000 more victims are buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings, with little chance of survival.

Rapid UK's 16-strong team - equipped with specialist equipment including thermal cameras and lifting gear - were the first British rescue workers on the ground.

A statement said they had been searching areas around the worst-hit city of Padang "under direction of the Indonesian authorities and the UN".

The needs are great and we will be bolstering our aid response in the coming days to assist families caught up in this grave disaster
Ian Bray

"The team has also carried out assessments of larger areas to identify whether further aid is needed," the charity said.

"The emphasis is now turning towards the recovery phase of the disaster and assisting the living and injured."

The United Nations has tasked the Rapid UK team with searching three specific areas outside the city on Sunday from 0500 local time (2300 BST).

International Rescue Corps, based in Grangemouth, Stirlingshire, said its 10-strong team was in Padang "working alongside other rescue teams in a coordinated approach to finding survivors".

Water shortage

International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said the aid operation was being well co-ordinated by the UN, and added that Britain was already in talks with the Indonesian government about the long-term recovery and rehabilitation of the area.

The DfID aid flight left RAF Brize Norton at 0345 BST on Saturday, carrying 496 shelter kits and two million water purification tablets to be handed over to Save the Children in Padang.

First quake struck on Wednesday at 1716 local (1016 GMT) under sea north-west of Padang
Second quake followed on Thursday at 0852 local

As well as the search and rescue team, including two dogs, and their equipment, also on board are a DfID liaison officer, a two-person DFID humanitarian assessment team and a shelter expert from aid agency Care.

A second DfID assessment team is in Jakarta involved in consultations with Indonesian authorities, before it will move on to Padang.

A DfID humanitarian adviser is also in Padang as part as part of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) System.

An aid team from charity Oxfam arrived in the city on Saturday to help distribute tarpaulin sheets for shelter, hygiene kits and clothes.

Oxfam's Ian Bray, in Sumatra, said: "Our partners have been working day and night to get emergency aid to those who need it.

"The needs are great and we will be bolstering our aid response in the coming days to assist families caught up in this grave disaster."

He added: "The support of the British public is vital to help us help the people of Sumatra."

A British Red Cross team was due to depart from London's Heathrow Airport on Saturday afternoon.

Population of 900,000, capital of West Sumatra province
On coastal plain, surrounded by mountains inland
Lies on one of world's most active fault lines
Near major quake epicentres in March 2007 and April 2005

The 7.6-magnitude earthquake on Wednesday brought down hospitals, schools and shopping malls, cut power lines and triggered landslides.

Inel Rosnelli, an aid worker for Oxfam's partner PKBI in Padang, said houses had been destroyed and people needed tents, tarpaulins and, most urgently, clean water.

"I am queuing with other Padang residents to get the clean water from my neighbours' well. The only alternative is to get water from leaking pipes," she said.

Tsunami search

Meanwhile, UK officials in the south Pacific are still trying to trace up to 16 British nationals who may have been in the area when a tsunami struck on Tuesday.

At least 169 people were killed and many thousands of others were left homeless.

Anna and Christopher Griffiths, originally from Pembrokeshire, but currently living in New Zealand, were staying in Samoa to celebrate their 30th birthdays.

They recalled scrambling up a hill to flee with "two lines of white water absolutely powering" at them.

Mrs Griffiths said: "I can't sleep, I haven't slept, because I can still hear that roar. I can constantly hear it."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We have received reports of a number of British nationals on Samoa or in the surrounding region that we have not yet been in contact with.

"Communications on the island remain severely disrupted. Phone lines are down and many roads are impassable."

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