Czech rescue team in India - did they arrive too late?

A team of Czech rescuers is among those helping victims in earth-quake stricken India. Four Czechs with specially trained dogs have been trying to find bodies amongst the heaps of rubble in the afflicted areas. Radio Prague's Alena Skodova spoke with the President of the Union of Rescue Dog Brigades, Vladimir Kuchta.

"Our Union is a member of the International Rescue Dog Organization that sent its teams to India. The Czech Republic has thus sent four rescue dogs which are trained to search for both live people and dead bodies. They flew from Vienna to Delhi on Tuesday and then via local airline to the afflicted area. But now they must only be searching for dead bodies."

Some of the rescuers criticised the government for dragging its feet in finding the money to dispatch the team immediately after the catastrophe, but as Mr Kuchta explained, the Czech Republic had not been asked for such help:

The Indian government asked their Czech counterparts to send only material aid, not rescue teams. Delhi asked Austria to send trained dogs, and that's how the Czech team ended up in India. The Indian embassy in Prague was extremely cooperative - the four Czechs obtained visas within two hours. Some blame the government for displaying differing reactions to natural disasters in various parts of the world. They say during the recent earth-quake in El Salvador the rescue teams also stayed at home, whereas two years ago, when an earthquake shook wealthy Taiwan, Czech aid was sent immediately. Mr Kuchta explained that the reasons for this are similar to the quake in India: while El Salvador only asked for medicines, tents and blankets, the Taiwanese authorities had asked directly for trained dogs. So, has there been any feedback so far from the four Czechs in India? Mr Kuchta again:

"At present we have no news concerning, for example, how many bodies they have found, because our communication link to India has not been functioning until now. The Czech rescue team are expected to return to Prague on Sunday evening or Monday morning."