Japan earthquake and tsunami rescue effort given helping hand by Herts fire chief

THE county’s chief fire officer is leading the UK international search and rescue team in Japan in the wake of the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Roy Wilsher and the rest of the UK team of around 60 people flew out from Manchester on Saturday afternoon to assist with the search for survivors following Friday’s disaster, which is thought to have killed up to 10,000 people.

The team arrived at an air force base in Northern Japan on Sunday afternoon before moving by a land-based convoy to Ofunato where they have established a base of operations at a High School with two American teams from Los Angeles and Fairfax County.

The area had a population of approximately 42,000 but suffered extensive tsunami damage and hundreds of people are known to be missing. Emotional scenes greeted the team as they arrived with some survivors stopping in the streets and crying as the convoy of more than 25 vehicles travelled the 200 kilometres from the air base to Ofunato.

CFO Wilsher said: “It was a very moving scene and we are pleased that we have now arrived and can look to rescue as many people as possible from this devastated area of North East Japan.

“Our priority is searching for survivors and closely monitoring the situation with the nuclear plant, which is less than 100 kilometres away from us.

“There is a lot of devastation all around and this is a challenging time for everyone involved. But we will focus on what we are here to do as this is what we train for. I feel privileged to be able to lead a team of highly skilled and professional people, to provide help at a time when the people of Japan need us most.”

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CFO Wilsher is not only chief fire officer for Herts Fire and Rescue, he is also the director of operations response for the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).

He was the Fire and Rescue Service Gold Commander at the major fire at the Buncefield Oil Storage Depot back in 2005 and led Exercise Orion last year – an international earthquake training exercise.

As well as being a very experienced operational commander he has been trained at an international level to coordinate and plan for emergencies that require a multi-national response.