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Last Updated: Friday, 26 December, 2003, 21:47 GMT
Britons to aid Iran quake rescue
Scene of earthquake in Bam, Iran
British volunteers will join the search for survivors
British volunteers are flying to Iran to search for survivors of an earthquake that has killed thousands.

Rescue specialists, firefighters, sniffer dogs, doctors, paramedics and engineers are on their way to the devastated country.

Around 50 volunteers flew out on Friday evening from Stansted airport on a plane funded by the UK Government.

The tremor which hit the city of Bam at 0158 GMT destroyed 60% of homes there, Iranian state television reported.

The first task facing the volunteers will be to get to the affected area, 630 miles south-east of the capital Tehran, on roads severely damaged in the quake.

People are still being pulled alive from the rubble, but Iran said the earthquake was too severe for it to cope with alone and has called on the international community to help.

Breathing equipment

Officials say the early stages will be crucial in efforts to find survivors.

The UK volunteers include firefighters, doctors and dog teams from Essex, Hampshire and Kent, together with rescue specialists from the UK-based International Rescue Corps (IRC) and Rapid-UK.

They are carrying specialist equipment including thermal imaging cameras and devices that can detect the breathing of people trapped under collapsed buildings.

Each earthquake is different from the last one, so we have to take them as they come
Rab Barrie, IRC organiser
At least 20,000 people were killed or injured in Friday's quake, with many still missing.

Iran suffers frequent earthquakes, with small tremors happening almost daily - 35,000 died in one 1990 quake.

Speaking ahead of the team's departure, IRC organiser Rab Barrie from Grangemouth said his seven-strong unit was anxious to help the rescue operation as quickly as possible.

"Hopefully we'll be able to get to the disaster zone and set up our search and rescue equipment," he told BBC Radio Scotland.

"We use specialised gear for searching under collapsed structures and so on. Each earthquake is different from the last one, so we have to take them as they come."

Specialists

Rapid-UK spokeswoman Cerian Henshaw said: "We are definitely going as part of the team - we have managed to get 20 volunteers on board.

"You do not really know what to expect until you are on the ground but we have people with up to 20 years experience in these situations."

IRC volunteers travelled to India in January 2001 in the wake of an earthquake in the state of Gujarat.

They also offered assistance after the terrorists attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on 11 September, 2001.

The British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal following the earthquake.

Anyone wanting to donate to the appeal can call 0207 245 1000.




SEE ALSO:
Iran earthquake 'kills thousands'
26 Dec 03  |  Middle East
Deadly history of earthquakes
26 Dec 03  |  In Depth
Scots aid Indian quake victims
27 Jan 01  |  Scotland


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