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Mercy mission firefighers back from Bam

KENT firefighters who spent almost four days in Iran searching through the aftermath left by the devastating earthquake that hit Bam on Boxing Day, have arrived home in time to see in the New Year with their families.

The team flew into Stansted airport in Essex fit and well early today.

Assistant Divisional Officer, Neil Hubbard, from Folkestone Fire Station, who led the Kent Overseas Search and Rescue Team, said: "Our team was one of the first to arrive in Iran. It took only 30 hours for us to get there, set up base and start our search, but sadly there were no live casualties to be found."

The team of seven travelled from their base camp to face the mountains of rubble that were once buildings.

Assistant Divisional Officer, Keith Burns serving at the Sevenoaks Fire Safety Unit, said: "We flew into Kerman and travelled to the affected area of Bam by coach. It was a long journey but greatly aided by the local people.

“We were able to set up camp at a military base where people from all agencies gathered their resources. There were representatives from many countries: Turkey, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Poland. They came from all over to assist the Iranian people."

Sub Officer, John Mazzey, based at the Maidstone divisional headquarters, said: "When we were travelling in the coach to the town of Bam, we couldn't believe our eyes. The devastation just got worse as we traveled further into town.

“The locals were in complete despair looking for members of their family and trying to salvage their belongings in the ruins."

Sub Officer Dave Hudson, from Canterbury divisional headquarters, said: "After all the tough training we've had, it was rewarding to see the effect we had on the locals. They were so pleased to see us and really grateful that we could help."

He added: "We made a thorough search in all our locations and although we're now home I feel assured we left no casualties trapped."

Leading firefighter Ian Selfe, from Maidstone Fire Station, said: "It was a good experience for us in as much as it will enhance our technical knowledge for future incidents of this kind.”

Chief Fire Officer, Peter Coombs, who was at the airport to greet the team, said: "I've been pleased to welcome them back. They've done a great job."

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