Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire firefighters back from New Zealand earthquake

Some of the firefighters standing in front of a fire engine
Image caption The firefighters helped in the search and rescue of people still trapped inside buildings

A team of Hampshire firefighters who travelled to New Zealand after last month's earthquake have returned home.

The nine-strong team helped in the search and rescue of people trapped inside buildings in Christchurch as part of a UK emergency response team.

The 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck the city on 22 February. The death toll is at 166, so far.

During the operation, the UK team cleared three city blocks and searched other buildings.

They arrived back at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

The firefighters were part of a 61-strong team from 13 UK fire services who arrived in Christchurch on 25 February.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said the most significant work done by the UK International Search and Rescue (ISAR) team was the search of the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation office block in the city centre.

A number of people were rescued there in the early stages of the search, which was handed over to UK ISAR shortly after the team's arrival.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue's group manager Pete Crook, who was head of operations in New Zealand, said the UK team spent more than 150 hours, working around the clock, to search the building.

He said the teams removed the layers of rubble to "ensure any casualties, alive or dead, would be recovered".

The Hampshire team had previously assisted during the Haiti earthquake, as well as at disasters in Indonesia and Iran.

The crews took their own food, water and shelter so the operation did not impact on New Zealand resources.

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