Robbie’s on quake rescue stand-by

Hartlepool RNLI coxswain and flood rescue team member Robbie Maiden.

Hartlepool RNLI coxswain and flood rescue team member Robbie Maiden.

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A RESCUER has been placed on red alert to jet thousands of miles to help with the mercy mission in earthquake and tsunami-hit Japan.

Robbie Maiden, who is the coxswain of the Hartlepool Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), is on 24-hour stand-by awaiting a call to be sent to the north of Japan where disaster struck on Friday, leaving more than 10,000 feared dead.

An aerial view shows houses burning and the Natori river flooded over the surrounding area in Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture

An aerial view shows houses burning and the Natori river flooded over the surrounding area in Natori city, Miyagi Prefecture

And millions of others have been left without homes, water, power, heat or transportation.

The 43-year-old, who has rescued hundreds of people in and around Hartlepool in his 27 years as an lifeboat man, is part of a country-wide RNLI Flood Rescue Team which is specially-trained in water-borne rescue.

And the team is waiting to hear from the Government as to whether its expertise is required.

Robbie, a dad-of-two from the Bishop Cuthbert Estate, Hartlepool, said: “We’ve been on stand-by now since Friday, waiting for the nod.

“What we’re waiting for is basically accurate information about whether our expertise is needed because when the tsunami hit, the place flooded. But the water basically disappeared as quickly as it arrived.

“However, it’s left huge pans, or pockets, of water in some places.

“We’re waiting to hear whether these pans of water will also disappear. If not, it’s likely we’ll be sent out.”

Robbie, the branch manager of Plumbase, in Hartlepool, has two bags packed with essential items, including a dry suit, thermal underwear, anti-sweat rash vests, mosquito repellent, malaria tablets, syringes in case he or other crew members needed medical treatment and antiseptic wipes.

The bags also contain packet food including boil-in-the-bag rice, chocolate, and sealed packets of water.

“There is basically everything we need to keep us going for about six or seven days,” said Robbie.

“After that we would be relying on the Japanese government for our essentials.”

Tens of thousands of relief workers, soldiers and police have been deployed to the disaster zone, including a team of disaster search and rescue specialists from the UK.

Reports suggest the death toll is certain to climb as searchers begin to reach coastal villages that vanished under the first muddy surge of the tsunami, which struck the nation’s northern Pacific coast near the port city of Sendai.

In one town alone, the port of Minamisanriku, a senior police official said the number of dead would “certainly be more than 10,000”, which is more than half the town’s population of 17,000.

Robbie added: “I’m apprehensive about going, but I wouldn’t say I was nervous.

“I’ve been lifeboating now for 27 years and I’d love to be given the opportunity to go somewhere like that to help people. That’s the idea of being involved in a team like this.”

The Foreign Office said as yet there are no confirmed casualties from the United Kingdom. But they have fielded more than 4,000 calls from worried loved-ones.

Around 17,000 British nationals were believed to be working in the country when the catastrophic quake struck on Friday.