UK International Search and Rescue: helping a country recover from natural disaster

Roy Wilsher

May 2020

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In March 2011, Japan was struck by a very powerful earthquake that originated in the Pacific Ocean 130 km north of Honshu island. The earthquake caused a tsunami that reached 40 m in height and flooded an area of 561 km2. It destroyed homes, businesses, roads, and railways and caused a cooling system failure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This led toa nuclear meltdown and the release of radioactive materials.

Over 450,000 people were made homeless and over 15,500 people died as a direct result of the earthquake. As part of the recovery effort, the UK International Search and Rescue team (UKISAR) was dispatched to the disaster zone.

UKISAR is a world-leading emergency unit that has developed processes and systems for urban search and rescue and methods for the rescue of people from collapsed buildings.

This paper explains the work the team deployed to Japan did after the tsunami to meet the challenge at street level and support the population and cultural sensitivity as well as the lessons learned.

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