0925: All breakfasted and are completing the entry paperwork for Hong Kong. Change to local time (1625) which is forward of UK Summer Time by 7 hours.
1717: Landed and start the process of getting into Hong Kong. Met as we get off the plane by the BA Operations Manager. He and his staff collect the passports and get us through the immigration and customs process without a hitch. We then go to baggage reclaim where staff have all the bags on trolleys and help take them out to arrivals. Gavin is there to meet us and we head to the vehicles in record time. BA have been wonderful.
1820: In the 3 vehicles and, after a few photos for BA, are on our way to the cargo terminal. BA Operations Manager has supplied a contact number directly to him if we have any problems.
1835: At cargo. Not as easy as in the passenger terminal but, with the help of one of the local drivers, we are getting there.
A document charge must be paid in Hong Kong Dollars – 4 offices, 3 phone calls and a visit to a locals only area and we get the cargo.
1915: Cargo is in our hands and we take it out to the transport.
1920: All loaded and we are ready for the next move into town. As we talk to Gavin it looks like we will have 24–36 hrs delay in getting visas. All looking good at this time.
1935: On our way to town where we will get a ferry to Lamma Island which is the location where Gavin stays and where we will find accommodation.
2200: On Lamma Island. There is an ex pat community on the island and they have arranged storage of the kit in a kick boxing gym, accommodation at various locations and clubbed in to supply an evening meal and breakfast at a bar tomorrow morning. We make contact with Jess King, a University Professor in Hong Kong who specialises in earthquake damage to buildings. We also meet many locals who have information on the area where the disaster has hit and are even given a hand drawn map to help us understand the location.
We split into the various locations we are staying at and will start the visa process tomorrow.
Gavin gets an e mail from Doug Copp in Canada, that a team of 8 are leaving Canada in 30 mins and will be in Hong Kong tomorrow with instructions to join up with IRC.
0700: Gavin is at the office. We run over the day’s plan and talk over provision needed for the team from Canada.
0900: The team meet up as arranged for breakfast. As with the meal last night, it has been paid for by one of the dragon boat teams. The media are in attendance and we give as many interviews as possible. A request to have some members attend a local international school and give a talk to the children is confirmed and we also agree to take along some of the smaller items of kit. John Anderson and David Lambard will attend.
Derek Jolly will attend Hong Kong University medical department to discuss the effects of altitude on the team. He will also try to purchase some specific high altitude medicine as a precautionary measure. The remainder of the team have been asked to stop in and have a photo taken at the local collecting box for the disaster victims. We also get confirmation from Doug Copp in Canada that his team are in Hong Kong and will join us.
1215: We have the 4 members at the ferry for the trip to the main island.
1245: We are on the main island and meet the Canadians who have travelled in from the airport.
We get the team away to the school and Derek to the university.
1330: We have been to China Travel. To qualify for the visa we needed to have return flights in and out of China and flights back to our home countries. We had these – but we were then required to have hotel bookings confirmed in the location we would travel to. We did not have hotel bookings and having explained about helping with the rescue, etc, and the fact that we have an area in the local university campus to camp, we were still asked for our hotel bookings. Asked if we could book via the China Travel Company, hotel rooms in the area. No, none available.
1415: We meet Paula Corrans and Alan Morrison, both of who are eager to help. They have a list of specialist equipment requested by the Chinese Government and we have all the location equipment, communications and water treatment items requested. They are sure that they can get the visas via the Embassy in Beijing. All passports are photocopied and equipment lists are to be supplied. All looks good for tomorrow and Paula suggests we sit in Lamma until she calls.
1530 (approx): Contact the admin office and arrange for the equipment lists to be emailed to the consul. We get confirmation that this has arrived within 10-15 minutes and make our way back to the ferry terminal.
We join with the team from the school and Derek. The Canadians will join us on Lamma Island and so we all head for the ferry. On arrival on Lamma we help take all the kit to the gym and suggest that the Canadians can bed down there.
Later that evening they get a call from a contact within the disaster area which confirms that the Red Cross are to send a letter to the British Consul.
Dan joins us and states that the head teacher from the school has been in touch with him. The visit was a huge success and both pupils and teachers had felt it to be a very worthwhile exercise.
0900: All are up and ready for what may happen and both teams meet up for breakfast. We once again meet and talk to the local community who have been so supportive of our efforts.
1115: I call the British Consulate and they tell us that both formal and informal requests for visas have been made in Beijing and they hope for an answer later today.
1545: From the British Consulate – the morning meeting in Beijing with the Ministry of Commerce has not gone well. They state that visas will not be issued to foreign teams. A further meeting has been called at 1600hrs.
We inform the Canadian Team and wait for the outcome of the 1600hrs meeting.
1705: I inform the British Consulate that IRC will keep the offer of help open for a further 24 hours and then due to the time scales of the disaster we will formally withdraw the offer. They agree and hope for an answer before the end of the 24 hours.
0800: We meet at the gym as the kit must be removed as the gym is in use today. We now have to see if our phone call comes or if we must withdraw the offer of help. All agree this could be a very long day. The Lamma Dragon Boat Team come to the rescue by offering some places on a training session. They have 2 training boats and can take 3 IRC members and 3 Canadians. We make sure the team can be contacted should the call to mobilize come in and away they go.
1200: From the British Consulate: we now have a final word from the Chinese Authority and it is a very definite “No”. The official reason for this is that the local infrastructure is not capable of coordinating foreign teams. An appeal was made by the Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations to allow teams in but this has also been rejected in all but a very few cases. A team from Japan has been given visas and possibly a team from Russia. This information is passed to the Canadian team. Contact is made with admin and they are given all the facts about the morning and our decisions.
1430: We have the flights booked for our return home.
1800: We are now all on the main island. Contact with the BA Hong Kong manager has been made and we have our flight details. He has the cargo information but cannot give us any further details at this time.
1830: We arrive at the cargo terminal. One of our local drivers talks to the cargo manager and then disappears.
1925: The local driver returns and tells us it is all booked in. We must take the cargo to x-ray and that should be us ready to check in.
1945: We are transported to the passenger terminal and say goodbye to the local drivers and to Gavin. We make our way to check in.
2000: We are met by a member of BA staff who has been fully briefed and upgrades our tickets home. We are given a personal invitation to use the BA lounge and all its facilities BA Operations Manager in Hong Kong. He drops in later to see the team and tells us he has followed our attempts to get visas and has kept all the airport staff updated.
0035: Take off and on our way home.
0526: Back on UK time.
0700: Landed and in contact with Admin.
1900: All are home safe.
Willie McMartin (Team Leader), Derek Jolly (Team Medic), John Anderson, David Dawson, Ian Waines, Ian McPhail, Paul Wilson, David Lambard, John Wilkinson, John Brown
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