Mitchell delivers message of solidarity from West Mids to Japan fire fighters

18th January 2012

Sutton Coldfield MP and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell has delivered a message of solidarity from a West Midlands fire chief to the head of the Osaka Fire Department in Japan.

Andrew Mitchell is in charge of the British Government’s disaster response policy and took the decision to send a UK Search and Rescue team to Japan, following the earthquake and tsunami in March.

The team included fire fighters from West Midlands Fire Services. Sean Moore – the West Mids team leader - wrote a letter to his counterparts in Japan to express the sympathy and admiration of the British team, who worked closely with them following the disaster.

Mr Mitchell personally handed the letter over to Mr Yoshinobu Fukasawa – Counsellor For Civil Protection and Head of Osaka Fire Department. They also discussed how the UK and Japan can share expertise in tackling future disasters.

Mr Mitchell said, “It is a great testament to the skill and professionalism of our international fire fighters that so much respect is shared between the UK and Japanese teams.

“The West Midlands team worked closely with the Japanese in the city of Ofunato, and I was pleased to be able to personally hand over the message of support.

“Mr Fukasawa told us that it will take ten years to rebuild the parts of the coast devastated by the tsunami. He also expressed his deep gratitude to all the British fire fighters who took part in the search and rescue operation.”

Full text of letter below:

To our fellow Firefighters and emergency responders:

It is hard to believe that almost nine months have passed since we attended the earthquake in Japan. The memories are still so vivid in our minds of the destruction, devastation and loss of life suffered by so many people on that fateful day in March.

The sights, sounds and smells of the many tragic international disasters we attend fade over time, but what does remain with us forever are the memories of human endeavour and kindness shown on such occasions.

We witnessed so many acts of selflessness - people helping their friends, neighbours and fellow citizens to salvage whatever they could, even though they themselves had lost everything. Not once did we encounter any bitterness, or self pity for what had just happened, only a willingness to assist.

We worked closely with all of the Civil Protection and Emergency Services, who we know also suffered appalling losses of life but who were able to put plans in place to search, rescue and recover as many people as possible. This was carried out with true professionalism and determination.

Our thoughts have been with you ever since we arrived back in the UK and we have utmost respect and admiration for the work that you have carried out. We will continue to think of you all, as you rebuild your shattered communities, and look to the future.

From all of the personnel of the United Kingdoms International Search and Rescue team we would like to say good luck to all the incredible people of Ofunato.

With very best wishes

Sean Moore
West Midlands Fire Service
UK International Search and Rescue team leader