Rescuers in New Zealand are “optimistic” that more people will be pulled alive from the rubble following the devastating earthquake which hit Christchurch, the leader of a British disaster relief team have said.
Firefighter Scott Imray told how emergency workers are working gruelling 12-hour shifts in a bid to find quake survivors.
Imray is the leader of an international search and rescue team from Grampian Fire and Rescue Service, which flew out to New Zealand’s South Island earlier this week.
Speaking from New Zealand, he described the scene of devastation which met the rescue team when they arrived on site.
He said: “It’s very saddening looking at the destruction.
“The buildings are similar to back home but there’s destruction all around in the centre of Christchurch itself.
“We’re predominantly in the centre, sealed off from everything else, and it is just destruction all around.
“The teams at the moment are working a 12-hour shift. That’s from 6am in the morning to 6pm and then 6pm to 6am.
“We’re in search and rescue mode and we will be doing our utmost to bring out live casualties.
“We are very optimistic that we could still come across live casualties.
“Obviously the longer it goes on, the less chance there is of survivors being found, but people are quite resilient and they can last a considerable period without food and water if they are in a reasonably safe area within a collapsed structure.
“We’re optimistic and we will continue to search until we’re told otherwise.”
Mr Imray said one of his team’s early jobs was to set up and secure an area for themselves and other international relief workers, as well as sorting out communications systems.
He said more than 500 rescue workers will soon be working on the site.
“After tomorrow, when all the teams should have arrived, there will be a total of 400 international search and rescue personnel and we will be supporting 130 urban search and rescue personnel from the New Zealand task force who have been here from the start,” he said.
“All in all there will be a total of 530 personnel working on this site.”
He told how the rescue teams face a number of challenges as they go about their work, including the constant threat of aftershocks.
But he insisted that morale among his team remains “excellent”.
“The challenges are obviously the dangers that are still around due to the unsecured structures we will be working on and the problems posed by the dust, dirt and debris,” he said.