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New Zealand Fire Service and USAR - Update March 2nd 5.30pm

New Zealand Fire Service and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR)
Media update
Wednesday March 2 2011 5.30

• Grand Chancellor – NZ USAR confirm they have now searched beyond the 10th floor . Search of the remainder of the building is almost complete however parts of the stairwell remain a problem due to rubble. Searching of surrounding buildings is now complete.

• Forsyth Barr building - The USA team described this as a major technical job. Completion of this work is estimated at around 3 days. There are no stairs available for access below the 10th floor. This requires the USAR team to use lines to descend down the stairwell.

• CTV building - NZ/Japan/China teams are still working on what is a very slow and technical operation and requires good daylight visibility.

• Cathedral - The steel support structure is now in place and is being secured to the unstable brick wall. Teams may be in a position to go inside the spire and start searching during the night.

• Pyne Gould – The delayering process of the concrete floors of the building continues with the UK and NZ teams estimating that the work will continue for another 4 days.

• Winds – Stronger winds today have reduced some USAR operations – we are reviewing aerial operations such as the use of helicopters and cranes as sustained winds may impact on these operations. To maintain safety of our personnel we continue to review the situation.

• Planning is in progress for the next phase of USAR operations expanding to develop safe access routes and the controlled deconstruction and clearing of debris whilst continuing to search for victims. Work will continue on the key sites already mentioned.

• Operations outside the cordon – Civil Defence response teams, Fire Service general operations staff and Police continue to visit streets and premises to reassure and support people, and if required can and will respond with specialist USAR.

USAR Welfare
• Asbestos is not a public health issue at this point. It is more an issue for responders and contractors on some sites to consider. USAR operations are used to these types of hazards and have systems, processes and protective clothing in place. We are monitoring any potential risk and are considering further mitigation strategies if required and are working with Civil Defence, Health and Department of Labour.
• The morale of personnel is good and everyone remains committed to the task at hand.

Reference Notes
• CTV – Japan, NZ and China daylight operations only
• Pyne Gould – UK
• Cathedral – NZ
• Forsythe Barr – USA and NZ
• Grand Chancellor - NZ
• Other teams continue block by block activities.
• There are eight countries represented in USAR. These include 3 NZ taskforces, Japan (1), Taiwan(1), Singapore(1), UK (1), USA(1 from LA), Australia (2 Queensland and NSW).
• Queensland are planning to rotate fresh staff over the next few days.

Public Information
• There is a total fire ban in place. Given the winds today it is important that this ban is strictly adhered to. Also stay away from any chimneys and roofs that look unstable or insecure.
• The Fire Service has had a number of enquiries regarding the safe use of fires in homes. Please ensure your chimneys and flues are checked by professionals first.
• The number of fire calls have been down in the past few days in Christchurch which indicates that the public understands and is being responsible with regard to fire safety messages about the use of electricity, chimneys and flues and the total fire ban. However, if there are genuine emergencies please call 111 as our operational crews are available to assist in a ‘business as usual’ capacity.

Please note that these NZ Fire Service/USAR updates are also displayed on the screen on the outside of the NZ Fire Service Gallery Command Unit (the red Fire Service truck outside the Art Gallery building near here on Montreal St).


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