Two of our NSRI volunteers were among the 55 member Rescue South Africa team who went to help Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami last month.
Reinard Geldenhuys and Deon Alberts, Acting Station commander and deputy station commander at Station 30, Agulhas, have now had time to get some sleep and recover from their experience.
Thirteen people from the Western Cape joined their colleagues in Johannesburg to make up a 55 member team who had to be totally self sufficient when they landed in Tokyo.
It was a mere 18 hours from the first warning that they were needed … to boarding a plane for Joburg where their equipment was readied before the flight to Tokyo via the Maldives. They landed at Tokyo at 2am and immediately got into a convoy to Sendai City stadium – which would be their base for their 8 day stay.
“We knew that we had entered the arena late, and because of that we were used as a specialized recovery unit,” said Reinard. “ We spent one day at Sendai airport, three days on the coast at Sendai City and two days at Oshinimako and recovered 9 bodies.
“ It was very hard work. As an example the last body took us 2 hours to get out of the car.”
The two NSRI volunteers, who are both professional fire-fighters with the Overberg Fire and Rescue team, say that the experience was invaluable.
And that they are happy to be home. But then again, when asked if they would do it again, Reinard did not hesitate.
“ Of course.”