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Morocco earthquake: Leicestershire firefighters in rescue mission

Steve Willatt
Steve Willatt said the team was "trying to do our best to try and rescue people"

Two Leicestershire firefighters are part of a UK search and rescue team hoping to find survivors of the earthquake in Morocco.

More than 2,900 people are known to have died in the tremor - the country's deadliest in 60 years.

The earthquake struck below villages in the High Atlas mountains, south of Marrakesh on Friday.

Steve Willatt, one of the team leaders on the mission, said it was "critical" survivors were found quickly.

Mr Willatt and Chris Geary, from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service, are among 60 firefighters from 14 UK fire services on the UK International Search and Rescue team, which also include medics.

Four search and rescue dogs are also supporting the team, which has been treating injured people and searching for survivors trapped under collapsed buildings in the mountains of Asni.

Mr Willatt said he was leading a 20-person team, which was based about 90 minutes away from the mountainous area, to one of the villages to assess the area with specialist equipment.

"There's been reports there may still be people trapped under the rubble and obviously that's what we're here for," he said.

"We've got trained personnel. We've got trained dogs that can identify live scent coming up from the rubble. We've got equipment where we can try and get into the rubble and see if anybody's surviving.

"So we're still trying to do our best to try and rescue those people if there is anybody there."

The UK International Search and Rescue team search for survivors trapped under collapsed buildings in the mountains of Asni, in Morocco
Members of the rescue team have been searching for survivors trapped under collapsed buildings

He said on Tuesday assessments of the area were "in the initial search and rescue stages".

"It's really critical we get there as soon as possible, and make that assessment and see if there are any survivors," he said.

"We know that from past earthquakes, people can survive for some serious time. So we're going to make every effort we possibly can to get there, and hopefully save some people."

In February, Mr Willatt also assisted in the Turkey earthquake rescue mission with three other members of the fire service.

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said it was "proud" two of its members were part of a team of "highly-skilled individuals".

Map of Morocco showing the intensity of shaking as it would have been felt, radiating out from the epicentre of the earthquake.
The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was in the High Atlas Mountains, 71km (44 miles) south-west of Marrakesh, at a depth of 18.5km

Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: "A team of specially trained firefighters and medics from the UK has been deployed to assist following a request from the Moroccan government to the British government.

"They will be providing specialist technical support where it is needed most to save lives and support local emergency service teams."

Councillor Nicholas Rushton, chairman of the Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland Combined Fire Authority, expressed his "extreme pride in us being able to help those in need in such an international tragedy".

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