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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 May, 2004, 21:23 GMT 22:23 UK
International Rescue answers call
International Rescue Corps
International Rescue Corps team members are aiding the operation
International Rescue's Scottish volunteers have answered the call to help in the aftermath of earthquakes and disasters across the globe.

But their specialised service was required far closer to home after a blast demolished a Glasgow plastics factory.

Eleven team members from International Rescue Corps' Scottish region, based at Grangemouth, arrived at the site of the Stockline Plastics building on Tuesday afternoon.

The rescuers received the call after offering assistance when they heard news of the explosion.

Loose debris

Team member Willie McMartin said the scene they encountered resembled the aftermath of an earthquake.

"Walls have collapsed, the floors have come down and most of the timber work has shattered," he said.

"What we have is a series of voids, partial support and lots and lots of loose debris that needs to be moved.

"We have been working with the fire service very closely and have been involved in the rescue of two women."

1: Rescuers lower carbon dioxide monitors into cavities to check for breathing
2: Sensitive sound equipment detects vibrations which the human ear cannot pick up
3: People in collapsed buildings can survive for days in pockets formed by sturdy items such as drinks machines or filing cabinets

A spokeswoman for the International Rescue Corps said it was unusual for teams to be called out for such incidents in Britain, although the number of requests was increasing.

"We have an excellent emergency service in Britain and we are just there to bring a bit more speciality into it," she told BBC News Online Scotland.

"We are qualified as specialists in urban search and rescue.

"We traditionally go to earthquakes and use specialist equipment to locate people trapped."

24-hour call

That equipment includes a video camera which can go into the rubble and a listening device to pick up sounds from the debris.

The corps is a charity staffed entirely by volunteers who are on 24-hour call.

A number of survivors were pulled from the debris
Team members from its other UK centres have been mobilised to provide back-up to the 11 Scottish team members who were at the site of the blast.

Fire chiefs have predicted that the operation at the Grovepark Street factory will continue for days.

The International Rescue spokeswoman said nightfall could actually assist those searching for survivors.

"It is a lot quieter in the evenings and people that have been trapped do tend to awaken when it gets a bit darker because temperatures drop slightly."

The four-storey building was destroyed in the blast, which killed four people and left dozens injured.

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