Rescue search ‘long and difficult’
FIRE chiefs have warned the search for the bodies of victims and clues to how the tragedy happened could take ‘a long time’.
Paul Hancock, Cheshire’s chief fire officer, said the scene was one of ‘complete devastation’ which posed ‘significant challenges’.
Fire and rescue teams have been working non-stop since Friday morning in a desperate attempt to find any survivors.
But Mr Hancock said they were now in a ‘search and recovery’ phase rather than one of ‘search and rescue’. He said: “This is a challenging environment. It is exceptionally hard to recover those individuals.
“There is always hope but the longer the incident goes on then realistically we are moving into a recovery phase.”
At least three explosions ripped through the four-storey mill in Bosley.
Upwards of 80 firefighters from Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and Staffordshire fire and rescue services used high volume pumps to get the blaze under control.
Firefighters faced serious risks including rivers of fire caused by ignited kerosene and LPG cylinders. The 1,0000C inferno reduced the building to rubble as it collapsed in on itself.
Urban search and rescue teams, who have searched for earthquake and Tsunami victims in Nepal and Japan, moved into the building in the early hours of Saturday.
Demolition and heavy lifting gear were used on site to help clear the search area.
Using sniffer dogs, the search teams painstakingly removed debris until the first body was found on Sunday.
A 25sqm area up to 10m in depth became the focus of the search.
A second body was found on Tuesday.
Mr Hancock said teams had removed ‘several tons’ of rubble, brick and mortar, as well as steel and pipework.
Jagged steelwork and iron girders point up at the sky at all angles, and below there is a a pyramid of mangled masonry and steel, with iron sheeting from the mill roof littering the site and surrounding fields – evidence of the force of the blast.
Across the road leading into the mill, the windows and even window frames have been blown out of some homes in a row of terraced cottages.
●● Search and rescue teams at the scene on Saturday