Cleckheaton firefighter Damian Cameron has just returned from a 10 day rescue mission to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.
Damian, who is a watch commander in the technical rescue team based at the fire station, is part of the Emergency Response Team, a registered charity and United Nations registered disaster response team made up of volunteers.
The 16-strong rescue team left the UK on Sunday November 17 with two tons of equipment and was tasked by the UN with reaching remote islands in the Western Visayas which had received no aid since the typhoon.
Working closely with the United Nations and the Philippines military, helicopters and boats were needed to reach the remote areas off the islands of Panay and Cebu.
The team took medicines and medical equipment to treat 5,000 people and dealt with conditions such as broken limbs, cuts and lacerations and infections.
Damian said: “The scenes were of total devastation and the people were in a state of desperation. They had lost their homes and their livelihoods, but their resilience was incredible and they were already doing what they could to re-build their lives.
“They were very appreciative of what we brought, but said the message they wanted to re-lay to the world was that they needed fishing nets and tools to re-build their boats. By doing so, they can then earn a living and provide for their families.
“It was a very humbling experience. Some of the areas we delivered rice to had received no help at all, but the first thing the people wanted to do with the food was cook us a meal.
“One of the saddest things was seeing two young children, who had lost one parent and the other was missing, and they were just fending for themselves.
“We also saw people with serious infections because they had gone untreated, and others had made splints out of bamboo sticks for their broken bones.
“It was a fantastic feeling to be able to help them, and they couldn’t have been more grateful. It was really satisfying to be a part of the aid effort, but it was just a drop in the ocean of what they need.”
As part of a co-ordinated response, a needs assessment of all the areas visited was passed to the UN to assist with the longterm aid and recovery programme.
Collapsed buildings were searched to locate any missing persons and the team spent many hours each day using chainsaws to remove trees from homes, schools, paths and roads.
They also provided water purification systems and delivered aid to several villages and donated electrical generators. Before returning to the UK they donated all remaining medicines and vaccines to local doctors.
Damian, who has been a member of the ERT for four years, said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to my colleagues at Cleckheaton Fire Station who worked extra hours to cover my shifts during the 10 days and group manager Richard Veti who supported the rescue mission.”
l ERT-SAR is registered charity and entirely funded by public donation – to give money visit www.justgiving.com/ertsar/donate.