Wales

Welsh firefighters join New Zealand earthquake rescue

Nine firefighters from Wales are preparing to fly out to New Zealand to join the relief effort after the Christchurch earthquake.

They are part of a 53-strong UK search-and-rescue team who have been called on following the 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

Andrew Thomas from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service is co-ordinating the Welsh contingent flying out.

He said: "They'll help with the search for survivors."

At least 65 people have died after the earthquake which hit at 1251 (2351 GMT) on Monday, 10km (6.2 miles) south-east of Christchurch.

A state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch, where there are reports of people being trapped in buildings. The authorities are warning the death toll is likely to rise.

Mr Thomas said: "We got the call around midday that our firefighters were needed to join the UK team flying out.

"There will be nine firefighters leaving south Wales but two are reserves so seven will actually be going and they'll find out who when they get to London.

"Currently, we're expecting them to fly out around midnight tonight from one of the London airports."

Mr Thomas said they would be helping with the search for survivors.

"They will take equipment out with them to help with lifting, shoring and cutting when they get out there."

Global support

"Going out to a natural disaster abroad is a bit different from their duties back in the UK but they do have regular training to prepare them for occasions like this," he added.

"Because of the flying time the team won't get there until late on Wednesday but once there they will provide specialist support to the search and rescue effort currently in place."

Mr Thomas said the specialist team from Wales were last deployed to help following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010.

"There are various organisations and countries across the world that will provide international search and rescue teams to help following earthquakes and other natural disasters.

"They are normally co-ordinated by governments so I assume the New Zealand government probably asked for resources and support."

Wales rugby coach Warren Gatland, from New Zealand, said his thoughts were with his countrymen.

"We've got some family down there. We've had messages they they're okay so definitely my thoughts are with the people of Christchurch and New Zealand.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has written to John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, extending his sympathies.

Britons in New Zealand can telephone the High Commission on 04 924 2898 for assistance, or the Global Response Centre in the UK on 0044 207 008 1500.

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