India 2001


80 kilometres north-east
of the city of Bhuj

Magnitude & Depth

7.7M & 23.6 kilometres

Team Deployment

17 member rescue team

26th January

At 17.00 the International Rescue Corps were invited to become part of a DFID (Department For International Development) sponsored team along with the Fire Service. Standby at home until we are told to go to RAF Brize Norton. Arrived at 12.15.

27th January

The plane at RAF Brize Norton.

On the plane. Robert Barrie, Paul Wooster, Mark Wilson North, David Maddock, Simon Drayton and Mark Baker.

Travel by bus. RAPID are at the back then David Maddock, Robert Barrie, David Dawson, James McElwee, Simon Drayton, David Dawson and Mark Baker.

In camp. Brian Davison, John S Anderson, David Dawson, John Anderson.

A typical pancake collapse

What is left of some blocks of flats

Looking up into destroyed flats
Point of contact in India – British Consulate Staff who will meet us at the airport.

07.55 Confirmed that the equipment is now on board and we that we are now to board the aircraft.

08.20 We are now on board the aircraft and have been briefed as follows: “We have diplomatic clearance to go to Bahrain.”

08.53 Finally told we can go and we are about to take off for Bahrain. Took off at 0920 from runway 26 at Brize Norton; we now have at least a 12 hour flight.

12.00 We have been given permission to enter the India and are flying directly to the disaster zone. We should arrive at 2330 local time. All team members are fit and well and in good spirits

13.00 Time to try and get some sleep. We understand the death toll is now 10,000+ and rising and we may still be the first SAR team in. I think we are in for an interesting time.

15.45 Had a few hours sleep. We are still on schedule to arrive at Ahmedabad and the captain of our aircraft has told us that we are making history by landing at this airport – no British Military Plane has ever been there. The MoD has advised the crew to leave as soon as they have unloaded us and the equipment.

17.50 Began final approach to Ahmedabad airport. Finally landed at 1800. Change to local time (2330). Unloaded the plane and got through passport control very quickly.

28th January

01.00 Moving to town of Bhuj, which is a 10-hour bus ride away; it has a population of 440,000. According to the Indian disaster assessment, 90% of the buildings are down and 120,000 people are missing. The equipment is loaded onto the trucks and we are now waiting for a bus to transport us.

01.50 Still waiting for the bus. Bus finally arrived at 0230 and we set off in convoy. 

02.45. 2 members are on one truck and 3 on another. The rest of the team is on the bus. The bus ride took almost 11 hours and we eventually arrived at 1240.

12.45 The police asked us if we would deploy a team to a building where voices had been heard.

We deployed Team 1; I went to meet the Chief of Police who authorised us to set up a base camp in a field opposite the command centre. Began to put up the base camp and Team 2 readied to go out. DFID requested that the IRC Coms tent be used as the DFID headquarters in Bhuj and that IRC handle all sat Coms on behalf of all teams, including the DFID. This we agreed to do.
Team 2 left at 1430 and went to the Jartch Shah Hotel. The building had pancaked in the centre and at the rear. The outside of the building was checked and access gained from the rear. The back of the hotel has suffered a lot of damage; the centre has collapsed, leaving only some rooms at the back standing. The military partially searched the hotel that morning. Two members entered the building from the front with two more acting as safety. The floors, which had not been searched by the military, had pancaked and it was very unlikely that anyone had survived.

16.45 Team 2 was given a new location while I went to give some assistance to another SAR organisation who were experiencing trouble with the coordination. They wished to search a hotel where 120 people were missing and voices had been heard earlier – advised them that we could only search sites which had been allocated at the co-ordination centre. On my return to base, IRC were allocated the hotel to search by the co-ordination centre. On arrival, the hotel was already being searched by an Indian Military team; a number of bodies were visible around the site and the military were working on retrieving a body from under the rubble. It was obvious they did not require a full IRC team to be present and so we left another team to assist the Indian military and the IRC personnel returned to base.

There was a report of 3 people missing in a block of flats. A recce was carried out, then a TPL search. The right side of the building had fallen over only leaving the far right of it standing. Steel reinforcement was the only attachment keeping the staircase to the building. The TPL search was negative, as was the video probe. When rubble was removed there was a very strong smell and a lot of flies around the area where the people were missing. The situation was discussed with relatives and the team left the site.

Team 1 eventually called-in with the following figures:

  • 6 taken out dead
  • 1 alive
  • 5 missing

18.15 Team 2 called to say they had finished their job and were being asked by local people to search the building next door.
However, team 2 were then deployed to the old quarter following a report of a man trapped in the bath. Took DFID out for a recce of the town to see how bad the damage is; we drove around the central area and I would estimate about 75%.

18.30 Joined team 2 at building in old town. Four bodies were found, including a child. Team 2 returned to base at 19.40.

19.10 Team 1 return to camp.

19.45 I went out with team 2 to carry out a TPL search on seven storey building (Shajahand Towers) with underground car park, some completely pancaked, some leaning, some sliding pancake, all stairways had collapsed and between 75 to 90 people missing.

Local people on site said they had heard a baby crying in the flats.

Carried out a physical search of one of the high-rise blocks, part of the other and the surrounding rubble.

Access to the part searched block needs to be via the outside front of the building and as this would involve climbing we had to leave this until the daylight hours.

Having gathered information from locals around the site, some having lived in the building, they informed us that around 70 people were on the stairwell when it collapsed.

We confirmed one dead and returned to base at 22.00 hrs.

There were a number of aftershocks during the night.

03.00 A small team carried out a TPL search on a local site. Returned to base before daylight – nothing found on site.

06.50 Took the same team back to the Shajahand Towers to search the high rise block in daylight.

One member used ropes and harness to climb up the front of the building, while myself and another made our way up through the inside of the building. Managed to search the entire block, although it wasn’t in a particularly safe condition. Didn’t find a baby but did find a cat. Then continued a TPL search around the rubble surrounding the base of the building.

29th January 2001

Working on a rubble pile. IRC member and Ray Gray.

IRC team working on a block of flats

Tunnelled into the lower levels of the collapsed building and located 3 more bodies.

Left following an aftershock. Swept across the top of the site and located another 6 more bodies, giving a total of 10 for this site. Did not feel we could progress the search of this site any further without the use of heavy lifting equipment. Informed the Indian Military of the same. Team 2 deployed to Nirzabur Village, about 18km from Bhuj. There appeared to be some confusion with the locals on arrival. The military had cleared the village and there was little evidence of damage in the area. Team 1 returned to base camp at 09.30. Team 2 returned to base at 09.40.

09.40 Team 2 allocated a task at Surbhur Town, a block of flats. The entire centre of the building had collapsed. A TPL search was carried out and the snake eye probe was used in some of the voids. Nothing found and the team returned to camp at 11.40.

What is left of some blocks of flats.

10.00 Team 1 out to unnamed site. Two confirmed dead; returned to camp 11.10 hrs.

11.20 Team 1 back out to a temple to search for four people reported missing. TPL used, no sign found. Returned to camp 12.15 hrs. Temperature now 38 degrees, very dusty with a very strong smell of decay overlying everything. Water is now becoming a real problem: none is available locally and, because of the drought conditions, there is not even a puddle to extract some from. We worked out we have roughly 1.5 litres per person left. Trying to get some water flown in.

13.00 I went out with Team 2 to the old walled city to try and locate four missing families. We were told on arrival that over 5000 people were known to be missing in the old city. Access by vehicle was impossible, as most of the walled city (around 4 sq. miles) had been flattened. A doctor who was convinced his wife was alive in their house met us. Video probe was used at this location. The wife was dead; 3 other bodies were confirmed dead at this site. A baby was rescued from the next street by a military team clearing the road. Returned to base at 15.00 hrs.

Local domestic property. An earthquake does not care how big or small a house is.

13.10 Team 1 deployed to search for five missing persons in a block of flats. No sign found of missing people. Team then called to assist a fire service team with a possible voice location in a collapsed block of flats with shops beneath. TPL used. The “voice” turned out to be a dog. Returned to camp at 15.15.

17.00 Team 2 was sent to the old town to search a 3-storey building. The building was compacted. A TPL search was carried out; one body was confirmed. Returned to base at 18.30

17.31 A team investigate a collapsed shop front, searching for an elderly woman. Nothing found. Returned to base camp at 19.30.

18.20 4 IRC personnel and 2 fire service went out to search a block of flats. Only the roof was intact. A TPL search was carried out: nothing was found.

20.30 Moved to a site opposite the base camp where shouting had allegedly been heard from the buildings. A TPL search was carried out; again, nothing was found. Returned to base camp at 21.10.

19.30 Team sent out to possible sound location in old walled part of city. On arrival the building was a complete compression. TPL was used; confirmed three dead. Returned to camp at 20.25 hrs.

Working on a rubble pile.


20.50 Team 2 went out to area of old city, Afsamas. The building had large voids. TPL and tunnelling used during search. One child, two adult females, one adult male confirmed dead. Returned to base camp at 21.58

21.10 Team 1 went to carry out a TPL search. Nothing was found and returned to base camp ate 21.50

21.30 Accompanied 2 fire service personnel to search a building in the old town where a voice had been reported and located one body by tunnelling into a room – no survivors found. Returned to base at 22.55.

General Comment:

There have been a large number of aftershocks during the day, including one that apparently measured 6 on the Richter scale and lasted for about 20 seconds.



30th January
06.00 John and Sheena went out to try and obtain fuel for the generators and equipment.

09.15 Team 1 sent to old part of city to carry out a TPL search. One man reported missing. Body located at 10.55 and confirmed as missing person. Search was completed and team returned to base camp at 11.10

10.00 Lorry load of bottled water arrived (at last). We now have a stock in the middle of the base camp, which took nearly an hour to unload.

11.10 Team 2 went out to Kasara Bazaar – an area not previously searched. TPL used and there were 4 bodies confirmed dead. Returned to base.

13.55 I went out with Team 1 to Vishwash complex – Gerwali, Vandy, Chattibarri. No previous searches had been carried out on this building. 36 people were reported missing on this site. 5 bodies were located. 15.30 returned to base camp.

14.20 I was contacted by base camp while working with Team 2 at the above site and asked to transfer to the Shahjahand Towers site. I had been to this site on two previous occasions but had no idea how to get there from this location. Fortunately, the driver with the Stampede camera crew did. I went to the Shahjahand Towers. I was advised en route that Dave and John had confirmed a definite voice contact at the site. When we arrived the army had been slabbing the building.

Working to get into Viral. Dave Maddock and 3 IRC members.

Working to get into Viral.

Rescued alive. Viral had been buried for approx 4 days. James Livingstone and Simon Drayton.

A rough location had been established with the casualty and three tunnels had been started to pinpoint his location. This was quickly established and all efforts were then concentrated on one tunnel. The casualty was actually one floor below where our tunnel was and after knocking a hole through the floor from our tunnel, the casualty was eventually extracted at 15.30. His name was Viral Dalal, he was lying on his bed with about 8ins of space above him and had been in that position for over 100 hours. Despite this, apart from dehydration, he was completely uninjured and even after being put in the ambulance he got out at the end of the street and returned to help with the search for members of his family. (Unfortunately all of these were later found dead).

Once the casualty had been removed from site, we began another tunnel adjacent to the tunnel we had got Viral out, to try and locate other members of his family. I took the time to do a more detailed recce of the building and having been given an idea of what it looked like prior to collapse, how it had collapsed and the information gathered from those who had got out of the building when it collapsed, it is possible that more survivors could be alive in the underground car park (the underground car park was inaccessible due to rubble).

We therefore began 2 tunnels with the express aim of getting into the underground car park. I returned to base with Team 2 at 16.28.

16.05 Team 1 relieved Team 2 at Shajahand Towers. Carried out a TPL search and continued with tunnels into car park

17.00 Team 2 went to search cinema and carried out a TPL search, returning to base camp at 18.00.

19.00 Mark and John went out to get some supplies, returning to camp at 20.30

General Comment:

A number of other international teams are now around on site. These include:

  • 3 teams from Turkey
  • Dog team from Hungary
  • Team from France
  • Team from Japan
  • Swiss dog team (they arrived same time as us)
  • THW
  • Russian Airmobile
  • Israeli Medical team (including field hospital)
  • Team of Indian Army Engineers

Water is no longer a problem although the heat is still making working conditions difficult. The smell of decay grows stronger as the days go by, having said that, all team members are fit and well. A large number of aftershocks are still occurring.


31st January
08.00 Mark went with DFID representative to Bhuj airport where supplies were arriving from the UK in a Russian Aleutian Aircraft. These were large tents and sheeting for the homeless. Returned to base at 11.40

08.45 Team 1 returned to the Shahjahand Towers and was joined by a Japanese Dog team. A TPL search was negative and the dogs weren’t able to detect anything. This was our last shot at this site as after this search, the operations commander had closed the site down. Returned to base.

Bhuj. Ray Gray and Mark Baker

11.47 Team 2 went out to Vaniyawad where 2 people were reported missing. They carried out a TPL search but nothing was found. Waited for a dog team, which didn’t arrive. Returned to base at 14.00.

12.00 DFID had been working hard to try and get transport and flights out of the country for Thursday (tomorrow). He also advised us that Rob Holden and Dr Mukesh Kapila, Head of Humanitarian Affairs Department, would be visiting the site tomorrow

12.10 Jimmy and Mark went to the temporary field hospital to try and find out what supplies they need. We intended to leave ours when we left the country.

14.30 Sheena and Mark were sent out to the old town to try and make contact with the Cheshire fire service team (communications in that area were pretty bad). Met up with the Cheshire team. Contact was made with the base camp. A local requested assistance with a limb sticking out of rubble. Returned to base camp at 16.20

16.25 Team deployed to area where limb was reported sticking out of rubble. Joined by the Cheshire fire service and a TPL search was carried out – nothing was found and no limb was visible. Returned to base camp at 17.30.

Bhuj. Locals do the best they can using large machines to start clearing rubble and locate bodies.

General Comment:

Work for us today has began to slow down, not because there isn’t work to do, but a lot of other rescue teams are now on site and work is being handed over to them. This makes sense as they are much fresher than we are. Transport has been arranged (2 coaches and a lorry for the kit) to leave Bhuj at 15.00 hrs tomorrow to take us back to Ahmedabad. We understand that a Monarch Airline 757 has been chartered for our flight home and will leave Ahmadebad at approx. 13.00 Friday with a possible stop off at Bahrain. This information was relayed back to HQ. We have been requested by the DFID to donate a number of pieces of equipment, including tents, rescue equipment and sat com to the Indian Government. I discussed this with our Operations Director via the sat com, who agreed I could leave whatever was necessary. The team is very weary both mentally and physically but, again has worked well over the day. Aftershocks continued throughout the day and night.

1st February

06.00 All team members are up.

06.45 Team left for local hospital where medical supplies were donated and gratefully received.

08.00 Thermal Image camera was donated to the Indian Army Engineers, the rest of our equipment i.e. tents, rescue equipment, rations etc went to different groups. Distribution to the following organisations:

  • Save the Children
  • The local hospital
  • British Asian Community Temple Group
  • Army Engineers

The total value of the equipment left in India was £25,000 (rough estimate).

At base camp. The children had brought their Grandmother in to have her artificial leg repaired.

One team member took ill this morning. Jimmy has had a look at him and at the moment he is asleep and resting in the large tent. He has stomach cramps and vomiting, has difficulty standing and feels quite faint. Brian and David went off with Steve to the Aid Co-ordination Centre to hand over the donated sat com and show them how to use it. We were visited in the early morning by a general from the Israeli field hospital; after a brief report on what we had been doing and where we’d worked, he returned to the field hospital. While he was there a woman arrived with a small child whose foot had been severed. We placed the child in the care of the general who returned to the field hospital with the child.

11.00 Dr Mukesh Kapila and Rob Holden arrived on site and thanked the GB team for “their excellent and fast response during the disaster”.

12.15 Our ill member’s condition appeared to be worsening and I was conscious that we had a 10-12 hour bus ride through some isolated terrain; so, with that in mind, I sent the team medic and two other team members with him to the Israeli field hospital to be checked.

13.30 The team returned to the camp from the hospital, with a diagnosis of heat exhaustion and a G.I. infection and had been given some medication by the Israelis

14.00 The team had now completed their work, were all packed up and awaiting the arrival of the buses.

15.00 The two buses arrive and the ill member was placed on one to keep him out of the sun. At present no sign of the lorry.

A local lorry used by the team

17.00 Lorry arrived

17.25 Lorry now loaded with the British teams kit. John and Mark to travel with said lorry.

17.30 Two buses and lorry leave Bhuj for Ahmadebad. The bus seemed to stop every hour and at the best the journey could be described as extremely uncomfortable.

2nd February

Apart from the discomfort, we had a pretty uneventful journey to Ahmadebad. We arrived at the Fortune Hotel at 04.00. The hotel had provided sandwiches and hot drinks and a couple of rooms for the teams to wash in.

The expected time of departure from the hotel was 09.00. John and Mark had gone straight to the airport with the kit. I also took the opportunity to send a sit rep back to the UK. The buses duly arrived at 09.00 and we set off for the airport – on time. Arrived at the airport at 09.30, just prior to the aircraft landing and by 12.50 the aircraft was loaded and the team were on board ready for take-off. Headed for Bahrain for the aircraft to change crews.

Convert to GMT

Landed at Bahrain at 10.35

14.15 Leave Bahrain for trip to Manchester airport.

21.50 Arrive at Manchester airport

23.30 Team disperse from Manchester following de-brief and Press Conference.

General Comments

As is usual with these reports, some of the work done by individuals may have been missed and all the times are approximate, as the entries were made when individuals had time to enter then, not as jobs occurred.

Ill team member’s health had improved on the journey home and he was, by the time we arrived in the UK, a lot better.

The Team

The IRC team in camp. Mark Baker, Sheena McCabe, Alan Turner, UN Rep, Brian Davison, Ray Gray, Robert Barrie, UN Rep, David Egan, Simon Drayton, Paul Wooster, David Maddock, David Dawson, Stuart Kinsey, James Livingstone, Mark Wilson-North, John Anderson, John S Anderson and James McElwee.

Ray Gray Team Leader
John Anderson Team Coordinator
Rab Barrie Section Leader
Paul Wooster Section Leader
Jimmy Livingston Team Medic
John Anderson
Mark Baker
Brian Davison
Davy Dawson
Simon Drayton
Dave Egan
Stuart Kinsey
Dave Maddock
Sheena McCabe
Jim McElwee
Alan Turner
Mark Wilson-North


Ray Gray
Team Leader


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