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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Cave rescue team ambulance stolen
West Brecon rescue team's ambulance
The ambulance is used to rescue people trapped in caves
A cave rescue team says its response times have been seriously hit by the theft of a 36,000 off-road ambulance.

Thieves broke into the headquarters of west Brecon rescue team in Powys and damaged valuable medical equipment before stealing the specialist vehicle.

Rescuers say it may now take an extra 90 minutes to scramble the nearest team, in Gloucester, in an emergency.

They condemned the thieves - who also stole equipment - as "callous and without conscience".

The team believe it could take weeks to replace the 4x4 Land Rover and medical goods, worth about 40,000.

The west Brecon rescue team, which is based in Penwllt, helps save people trapped in caves and old underground mine workings across mid and south Wales. It celebrates its 60th anniversary in August.

The stolen and damaged equipment was bought with charitable donations and grant funding.

It has seriously hit us
Gary Evans

Gary Evans, lead call-out warden and team medical officer, said police and a neighbouring team in Gloucester had kindly offered to help with emergencies.

"This could delay our response time by up to one-and-a-half hours as the nearest cave team ambulance is based in Gloucester," he said.

"We paid for the vehicle through voluntary fund raising and grant applications, but this has compromised our ability to deliver our service. It has seriously hit us."

The thieves smashed through the door of the headquarters with a pick axe on 14 May and stole the vehicle.

The vehicle contains a specialised winch, medical and communications equipment and stretchers to help people injured underground.

The team said funds had to be raised to match a shortfall in insurance.

"Their insurance won't cover the full cost"

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