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Stansted Airport firefighters stage heroes welcome for UK International Search and Rescue Team on their return from Turkey's earthquake disaster zone





A heroes welcome awaited the UK International Search and Rescue Team (UKISAR) on their return from Turkey's earthquake disaster zone – including a water cannon salute from Stansted Airport firefighters.

The 77-strong crew of mostly fire and rescue service workers, plus four fire and rescue search dogs, landed on Wednesday (Feb 15) having spent more than a week helping with the search for survivors of the February 6 quakes, which have so far claimed the lives of more than 47,000 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

As the aircraft taxied to the private business terminal, the airport's fire crew positioned their water jets either side of the plane to create a water arch, in honour of the team's rescue efforts. Three of the team – named only as Bryn, Scott and Steve – are Essex firefighters.

The water salute arches over the aircraft carrying the UKISAR team as it lands at Stansted Airport
The water salute arches over the aircraft carrying the UKISAR team as it lands at Stansted Airport

Said an airport spokesperson: “A water cannon salute is typically performed for retiring pilots or to celebrate a new route. However, it seemed fitting to give a special welcome home to the amazing UKISAR team returning from their mission to Turkey.”

The rescuers also received flowers and were welcomed at a special reception attended by representatives of the Turkish consulate and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The team – which also includes medics, a structural engineer and a vet – deployed through the FCO following a request for assistance from Turkey after it announced its highest level of state emergency. Upon their arrival, they established a base of operations in Hatay province and began surveying buildings for live casualties.

The three members of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service who travelled to Turkey to help search among the rubble for earthquake survivors (62512401)
The three members of Essex County Fire and Rescue Service who travelled to Turkey to help search among the rubble for earthquake survivors (62512401)

UKISAR has specialist search equipment including seismic listening devices to detect and locate people, concrete cutting and breaking equipment, propping and shoring tools, and heavy lifting gear.

The team searched hundreds of buildings and rescued a number of survivors, working with international search and rescue teams.

Footage taken during their deployment showed the gruelling conditions they worked under. One intricate and complex rescue took more than 20 hours to complete, while another saw three members of a family reunited.

National Fire Chiefs Council chair Mark Hardingham, who was among those who greeted the UKISAR team at the airport, said: “It was humbling to greet the team after an incredibly tough deployment. The dedication, courage and professionalism shown by this specialist team is an inspiration.

“To hear what they achieved – while never wavering in the most difficult of conditions – was incredibly moving. Once again it proved beyond doubt that the UK fire service will always give help where it is needed most, without question, in the most selfless way. I hope the team get some much-needed rest with friends, family and loved ones.”

A spokeswoman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said it was "beyond proud" of its three personnel.

The UKISAR team is made up of fire service personnel in Cheshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, London, Merseyside, Mid and West Wales, Scotland, South Wales and West Midlands.

It is on permanent standby to mobilise and assist when requested by disaster-affected countries. It deploys as an official UK Government team once a request for assistance has been received.

Any UKISAR team is self-sufficient and provides its own food, water, shelter, sanitation, communications and all necessary equipment to undertake search and rescue operations for 10-14 days. This is to ensure no additional burden is placed upon a country already suffering demands on its resources.



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