SA team to join Japan rescue effort

14 March 2011

A South African rescue team is expected to leave for Japan on Monday to join a massive international relief effort after a tsunami devastated north-eastern Japan on Friday, reducing whole towns to rubble and leaving thousands of people missing and feared dead.

Rescue South Africa said on its website on Sunday that it was putting together a team for a mission to Japan under the auspices of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

Rescue South Africa (RSA) is an official South African disaster response team made up of volunteer emergency response specialists from the South African public and private sector emergency and ancillary services.

RSA spokesman Ian Scher told the SA Press Association (Sapa) on Monday that a team comprising at most 50 South Africans from around the county, including paramedics, dog handlers and their sniffer dogs, were planning to fly out on Monday night.

Scher told Sapa that the roughly R7-million required for the mission would be “largely funded by the private sector … People like Netcare have sponsored R1-million, Discovery have sponsored R500 000, Econet Wireless have sponsored R1-million, MTN R500 000, and Core Group have sponsored R250 000,” he said.

Rescue South Africa falls under the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, who will co-ordinate the rescue operation, Sapa reported.

“When we go on such a mission we go equipped,” Scher told Sapa. “We have got to have our own camp, food, rescue equipment, medication and doctors – so you don’t become a burden to the country you go and assist.”

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has described the crisis precipitated by an 8.9-magnitude earthquake of Japan’s north-east coast as “the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War II”.

SAinfo reporter

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