Send­ing too many res­cue teams ‘makes dis­as­ters worse’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Tom White

TRAV­EL­LING to post-war Iraq in 1991 to as­sist Kurdish com­mu­ni­ties bombed in the first Gulf War, vol­un­teer UK fire­fight­ers were un­know­ingly lay­ing the foun­da­tions for their coun­try to play a greater part in global disas­ter re­sponse.

Two years later, UK In­ter­na­tional Search and Res­cue was formed and has since spent the last 25 years re­spond­ing to the world’s worst dis­as­ters, in­clud­ing in Ja­pan, Nepal, Tur­key, In­done­sia and Haiti.

How­ever, as he leaves his role as na­tional co­or­di­na­tor, Sean Moore, 52, warns that al­though in­ter­na­tional disas­ter re­sponse is bet­ter than ever, res­cue teams can bring “disas­ter on top of disas­ter” if too many groups de­scend on a coun­try af­ter an in­ci­dent.

“It’s got 100 per cent bet­ter than it was, but there’s def­i­nitely some way to go,” he told The Sun­day Tele­graph. “For ex­am­ple, 76 teams went to Nepal in 2015, which in terms of co-or­di­na­tion was a disas­ter on top of a disas­ter as it put more of a bur­den on that coun­try than we were meant to do.

“I think disas­ter-prone coun­tries need to con­sider how best to ap­proach as­sis­tance. There are dozens of megac­i­ties around the world with a pop­u­la­tion over 10 mil­lion and a lot of those are on ma­jor fault lines. For ex­am­ple, Istanbul is over­due a ma­jor earth­quake and we could be bet­ter pre­pared for it.”

Mr Moore, a fa­ther of two from Coven­try, has been in­volved in­ter­na­tion­ally in the devel­op­ment of pol­icy and guide­lines and in train­ing pro­grams taught in over 100 coun­tries.

“All of the dis­as­ters I’ve been on I can re­call very eas­ily, it’s not about the sights you see but the smells and sounds you get ex­posed to as well. The des­per­a­tion you see – these are some of the world’s very worst dis­as­ters we get sent to,” he said.

“Ev­ery time we have made a res­cue, whether I was in­volved di­rectly or in­di­rectly as my role has changed from hands on to a team leader, ev­ery sin­gle one of those is a mem­ory for me be­cause it’s some­one’s life and I al­ways put my­self in their po­si­tion as if it was a mem­ber of my fam­ily.”

He said of re­tir­ing: “I’ve been dread­ing this point, it’s been one of the big­gest things in my life for 28 years. But I’ve still got lots of ex­pe­ri­ence to give back, so I don’t plan to rest as I love what I do.”

‘There are dozens of cities with a pop­u­la­tion of over 10 mil­lion and a lot of those are on ma­jor fault lines’

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