Russian rescuers return home from quake-hit Japan

The Russian Emergencies Ministry said on Thursday that their elite rescue teams Tsentrospas and Leader returned home from Japan, hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The 161-strong group gave a helping hand to their Japanese colleagues in the stricken cities of Sendai and Ishinomaki.

A total of 115 bodies have been discovered, Russian rescuers said, adding that their mission in Japan has been accomplished. The main focus is now being placed on the identification of the quake’s victims, explains Vladimir Legoshin, deputy chief of the Tsentrospas team: 

“Earthquakes are not uncommon in Japan, which is why its early warning systems are always on standby. In this regard, I would like to give kudos to our Japanese colleagues   who managed to minimize the quake death toll by notably telling us what to do as far as rescue efforts are concerned. Police remain on heightened alert in Sendai and Ishinomaki, whose infrastructure is already being rebuilt. Right now, the authorities’ main headache is rendering humanitarian aid to all those injured in the quake.”

Nikolai Vdovin, the head of the Leader rescue center, told the Voice of Russia about his experience in Japan:

“I have been working as a rescuer since 1972 so I’ve seen a lot but I should say that the operation in Japan was special. Firstly, it took us a day and a half to get to Japan. We had to wait in Khabarovsk for the decision of the Japanese authorities. Secondly,
there was more than 400 km route from the airport to the scene of the
disaster, which was challenging for our truck drivers. Thirdly, we
had to think not only about the victims of the disaster but also about
our own safety because there was a risk of aftershocks and radiation

One more thing I should say. I am in charge of 1000
people who work in my center and they are of 23 ethnicities. I would be
glad to take Japanese people in my rescue group too. They did they best
to help us. Doctors, road inspectors, diplomats and also common people.
Some brought bread some brought vegetables. They invited us to their
house to take shower after work and helped us with equipment

And the last thing. When we were leaving and I was
getting on the bus an old man on the bike approached me and handed me a
package. I bowed to him the way Japanese people do to express gratitude.
On the way back I opened the package and there were sugar candies. I
was very touched.” 

On their return to Russia all the
rescuers have undergone complete medical examination and the check
showed that they are all quite well.

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