19:00 (local – two hours ahead of GMT)
Arrived at a military airfield outside the town of Izmit. All equipment unloaded from aircraft, this included a 110 Land Rover provided by Lancashire Fire Brigade. Two Sea Kings from the Royal Navy ship HMS Ocean were waiting to transport the teams and all equipment. At this time we were appointed interpreters; we were introduced to Akin, who spoke excellent English due to living in London for twelve years. IRC personnel and kit were loaded onto the Sea Kings first as we could be transported as a team in one lift; arrangements were made for the fire service teams to travel in the second wave. The Land Rover left to make its way by road carrying equipment and personnel, including an interpreter.
After a flight of approx 45 minutes, we arrived at Duzce at 20:30, landing in a football stadium containing soldiers from the Turkish army who assisted the team carrying the kit from the landing zone. Our instructions were to not leave the stadium until the Turkish co-ordinator had allocated a site to us.
We were approached by members of THW (German Civil Defence) who asked if we could help confirm they had found three live casualties. The Land Rover had just arrived so two IRC and two Fire Service personnel walked the short distance to help out; they returned a short time later to confirm a positive location and the German team were carrying on with the rescue – no further help was needed. John, Akin and the Fire Service Land Rover left to collect fuel for the generators etc.
22:00 – A request was made to the Turkish co-ordinator to allow us to leave the present location and begin search work, he told us he did not know of any place to set up camp. In order to get some bearings on our exact location, myself and Brian Philip left the stadium and, after walking 200m, came across the site the team had used as base camp during the first mission in August, located in the gardens of the local police station/barracks. A radio message was sent back instructing the team to relocate to this site.
23:00 – Call for team to search a collapsed 5-storey building close to police station – 3 children and two adults reported. The children were in a games arcade in the basement while two females were last seen on a first floor balcony attempting to jump from the building. A TPL search was carried out and some access was made into the building. It was decided to cease searching for present and return later
09:00 – A meeting had been called of all SAR teams. This was held in the police station and I attended, along with the officer in charge of Fire Service teams. The situation to date was outlined by the UN Representative, informing us that an UNDAC team had been put in place and all requests were to be channelled through them. All teams were then asked to give details of numbers of personnel and types of equipment at their disposal. At that point in time, 35 teams and upwards of 1,200 SAR personnel were on site in Duzce, with more due to arrive in the next 24 hours, including two field hospitals and staff.
A request for teams to search a large block flats was received and a joint Fire Service and IRC team was deployed – TPL and vibraphone searches were carried out. It was on this building the first serious aftershock was felt. A Fire Service team thought they heard something on their vibraphone, Sheena felt she had a positive sounding with our TPL the Canis dogs also gave an indication. It was agreed to try and tunnel into the general area of the sounding. IRC personnel worked in shifts to carry this out. Throughout this search, several aftershocks were felt and, due to the building being very unstable, tunnelling was suspended.
Dawn – The Team return to building and carry out further TPL search. On site were dog teams from several countries with some dogs giving an indication. We could not determine whether the dogs were indicating for live or dead persons but the building was still too unstable to enter in any case.
I left this morning in the Land Rover to recce one of two sites allocated to us by UNDAC. A Turkish team of workers was searching a tyre fitting shop with one person still unaccounted for, after some exploration it was agreed to drill holes in the floor and try using the FOP.
09:00 – Ray Gray was booked onto a flight to carry out an aerial recce of the area. He reported that, once above the smog that was covering Duzce (due to the number of open fires and no water being available to extinguish burning buildings), he flew over Kayanasli where one team was working. Bolu had structural damage but no major collapse and little road damage. Over the next 24 hrs the Fire Service and IRC team members worked very closely with each other on several sites.
AKUT, a Turkish volunteer rescue team, asked for help in searching a block of flats. Work was started on cutting and installing props and making access into a ground floor apartment to allow access to the upper floors; further assistance was received from the Russian team, Turkish miners and locals. Work continued on this site over a period of 35 hours, with the teams working in shifts to allow them some rest.
It was while working on this building that the largest aftershock was felt. None of our team were in the building at the time but members of the miners team had been inside – all were accounted for. The team were in good spirits as all the props they had installed stood up to the test of the aftershock; after further investigation it was agreed that no one was alive in the structure and the search was called off to allow the building to be dismantled by machinery.
Buildings close by had collapsed during the aftershock and the FS Land Rover left to investigate but no persons were reported.
The FS co-ordinator informed me that the SAR work was being scaled down and all first phase rescue teams were being returned home. Further teams were arriving from the USA, Japan and Denmark.
Our last request was for a video probe search of a void opened up by the Finnish rescue team on the first building mentioned in this report but nothing was found.
Transport was arranged for transfer to Istanbul airport to catch the 11:00hr flight on Wednesday. On the way, the Team were taken to a Shell Refinery and allowed the use of showers and given lunch before continuing the journey. We were contacted by the British Consul to say rooms had been arranged for the teams that night. The problem was transport – the vehicles we were using (a bus and a lorry) had to return to Duzce that evening. Up until then, the plan had been to spend the night in the airport terminal. Fortunately, this was solved by the consulate hiring two buses to leave at 07:15hrs for the flight scheduled for 11:00hrs.
The teams and equipment travelled to the consulate where the equipment was left over night in the secure compound.
After travelling to the airport, we were informed of a problem with the cargo of the Hercules due to take us home and the flight would be delayed. The flight eventually left Istanbul at 19:30 local time, landing at Nice to refuel and finally landing at RAF Lynham at 02:00hrs GMT. The team demobilised from Lynham at 03:30 approx on Thursday Morning to travel home.
To feature any part of our stories in your own publications, please contact Julie Ryan on email@example.com or call +44 7786 881 908