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Rescuers endangered without engineers

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UK SEARCH and rescue volunteers' lives are being endangered because of a shortage of engineers on teams sent to help disaster victims.

Rescuers looking for survivors in the wreckage of collapsed buildings are being forced to rely on gut instinct instead of sound engineering judgement to gauge their stability, said the UK's only rescue engineer, Ian Turner.

Collapsed structures are inherently unsafe, ' said Turner.

'Although the kinds of stabilising measures used by rescue teams to access a collapsed building - propping, shoring, digging and lifting - are fairly elementary, the consequences of misjudging what's needed, or getting the method wrong, are potentially fatal.' Halcrow engineer Turner, a volunteer with search and rescue charity Saraid, said that every 15-20 strong rescue team should include at least one engineer.

He is the only engineer in the UK employed on search and rescue missions. Saraid is the only one of the UK's three voluntary search and rescue teams to employ a structural engineer.

It claims that none of Britain's 13 fi e service rescue teams employs a structural engineer.

raid director Stefan Hopkins said that structural engineers play a vital role in analysing building types and advising rescuers on failure mechanisms.

Their knowledge of structural behaviour helps identify safe routes into damaged buildings, and can help locate cells of structural integrity within the ruins where people have survived, he said.

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