Billingshurst firefighter flies out with rescue team

TWO firefighters from West Sussex have flown to the aid of flood victims in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mick Lewin is from Billingshurst and Charlie (Charlotte) Eastwell comes from Hove.

They have joined the UK International Search and Rescue Team (UK ISAR) in their bid to support the flood-affected communities.

They are part of the UK team of 33 which also includes firefighters from Hampshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, West Midlands, Mid and West Wales.

The SOS for international assistance came following large-scale flooding and landslides in areas of Bosnia and Serbia which have buried homes and stranded thousands of people.

Mick and Charlie, both part of West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Technical Rescue Unit, are working in the area of Tuzla and are primarily responsible for organising logistics for the UK team.

Members of the team, who are using a range of water response equipment including four rigid inflatable boats, have already carried out 42 rescues including a number of vulnerable and elderly people who were trapped and unable to swim to safety.

The team have also been delivering vital food and water supplies to those choosing to stay in their homes.

Chief fire officer for West Sussex, Sean Ruth, said: “We’re proud we have a specialist team of firefighters in West Sussex who are trained and equipped to respond to this kind of disaster locally, nationally and internationally.

“We don’t yet know how long the mission will last but the team are self-sufficient for ten days and are working round the clock to support this life-saving search and rescue operation.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Technical Rescue Unit is one of 21 specialist search and rescue teams strategically situated around the country.

The teams are primarily funded by central Government through its ‘New Dimensions’ programme.

The programme, which was launched following 9/11, provides the UK with a more resilient response to major incidents such as widespread flooding, structural collapses, terrorist attack and transport emergency.

13 of these teams are trained to be deployed oversees as part of the UK’s response when a foreign government appeals for help.

The Technical Rescue Unit consists of 12 West Sussex firefighters, part of the International Search & Rescue (ISAR) team who have been on international rescue missions in Haiti, New Zealand and Japan.