Greater Manchester fire teams describe Japan conditions

Firefighters from Greater Manchester have been describing their experiences in Japan after returning from taking part in the rescue operation.

The seven men were part of the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team, which spent a week in the tsunami and earthquake-hit country.

They found no survivors, but helped to recover bodies in freezing conditions.

The men said that no amount of simulating disaster conditions in the UK could prepare them for the reality.

'Ripped off foundations'

Speaking after being reunited with his family at Manchester Airport, firefighter Neal Pickersgill, who led the Greater Manchester team, said conditions were "harsh".

"We had about three or four inches of snow by the middle of the week, which was quite a harsh condition and makes the searching more difficult and everything a bit more slippery," he said.

"But we're trained for these things and you take it in your stride and there's a bit more care and safety involved.

"We do large-scale training exercises and the lads who set them up try to make them as realistic as possible, but there's absolutely nothing that can compare with what we've seen.

"We've seen piles of timber and houses crushed up to four or five metres high, which are backed into more houses behind them and houses ripped off their foundations."

The official death toll in Japan has risen to 8,133, with 12,272 people missing.

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