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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 December, 2003, 12:11 GMT
Rescuers leave Christmas behind
Derek Jolly
Derek Jolly is part of the search team from Scotland
Derek Jolly is one of the British emergency experts who dropped everything to fly out to Iran to help with the earthquake rescue effort.

His sister, BBC News Online's Paula Dear, tells how their family Boxing Day celebration in Scotland was abruptly brought to a halt as news of the disaster emerged.

My brother Derek is one of seven volunteer rescuers to have been sent from Scotland.

His bag has been packed since he qualified for the International Rescue Corps (IRC) last year, following two years of intensive and exhausting training on his days off work as a paediatric intensive care nurse.

Following several false alarms and "standby" situations, this is his first overseas mission.

Boxing Day had been set aside for watching all our new DVDs

We'd had a late night, having enjoyed Christmas dinner with Derek, his wife Fiona, their first child - three-month-old Skye - and our families.

Boxing Day had been set aside for watching all our new DVDs and getting through a pile of chocolates.

On Friday morning, the phone rang just after 0900 GMT.

Derek came into our room, asking if he could get into the cupboard for his IRC kit.

"There's been an earthquake in Iran, I have to get ready," he said.

We'd heard this before; he'd probably be put on standby, then nothing would come of it. I rolled over and drifted back to sleep.

Packing equipment

Half an hour later it was starting to look serious.

Derek was emptying an enormous holdall onto the hall floor and checking every single piece of kit. "Can't find a space for my hammer," he said, as the rest of us shuffled around and tried to look useful.

We were half way through Christmas dinner mark two when the final call came
He proudly showed me his new torch, which has a red filter on it to prevent "blinding" survivors who have been trapped in the dark for long periods.

Several phone calls later and it seemed certain he would be going at least as far as London, from our home town of Dunfermline, Fife.

There was every chance he'd get that far then have to turn around and come home again.

Sometimes the government of the affected country doesn't request assistance, sometimes the disaster isn't so bad as first thought, sometimes there are no survivors to rescue.

He called work to warn them he might not be in next week. They told him to go for it, and not to worry.
Rescuers pull a woman from the rubble
Many people are trapped under the rubble of collapsed houses

His wife, who works in the same department, would keep them up to date.

"Let's have some turkey leftovers while we wait for confirmation," was my very helpful suggestion.

If he ended up in Iran it was probably going to be hours, or days, before he got a proper meal again.

We were half way through Christmas dinner mark two when the final call came.

That was it, he was going, and he was going now.

He probably would have had time to finish his food, but by then his stomach was in a different place.

He wanted this mission, wanted badly to put his training to good use, but the excitement was mixed with a generous helping of nerves and fear.

He climbed into his blue rescue jumpsuit, kissed his wife and new daughter and jumped into the car.

No contact

We stayed glued to the news for the next few hours. Aftershocks had been rippling through the town. It looked like a dangerous place to be.

Derek called from the airport, saying they would soon be boarding a plane chartered by the British Government.

My worried parents wished him luck and ordered him to be careful.

His mobile phone will be left behind in the UK. From now on there will be no more direct contact, other than a daily call to Fiona from the IRC's operations people, to keep her informed.

Christmas is over. All we can do now is wait.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to support the work of the International Rescue Corps can call 01324 665011.

Scots aid Indian quake victims
27 Jan 01  |  Scotland

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