Czech urban search and rescue team helping find blast survivors in Beirut

Beirut, photo: ČTK/AP/Bilal Hussein

The Czech Republic has sent humanitarian aid and an urban search and rescue team to Lebanon, following the massive explosion that devastated Beirut on Tuesday. The 40-member rescue team is on the ground helping to search for survivors and will remain in the city for as long as it is needed.

The Czech Republic has joined in the wave of international solidarity with Lebanon as it struggles to deal with the aftermath of Tuesday’s devastating blast. A 40-member urban search and rescue team complete with dogs trained to search for survivors was on a plane to Beirut within eight hours of the Lebanese authorities’ call for help. Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček said they would remain for as long as was needed.

Photo: ČTK/AP/Hassan Ammar

“We are sending a team of rescue workers specially trained to search for survivors in the rubble, including dog-handlers and we are sending emergency medical aid on the plane with them. We have also earmarked 10 million crowns in emergency aid which will be dispatched following negotiations with the Lebanese authorities.”

The spokesman for the urban search and rescue team, Martin Kafka, told Czech Radio its members had helped in many emergencies abroad, proving themselves in situations where every minute counts.

“Their main mission is to find and save as many people trapped under the debris as they can, as fast as they can. They have specially trained dogs, they work with echo-locators, sensor systems and special search cameras. They work with heavy technology or grab a shovel if needed. Once you locate a survivor you use whatever means works best to get them out and hand them over to paramedics.”

The team has its own doctor and structural engineer and works wherever it is stationed by the head of the Lebanese rescue effort.

The Czech ambassador to Lebanon, Michaela Froňková, on Wednesday confirmed that no Czech citizens registered in the foreign ministry’s travel data base DROZD had been hurt in the blast, and no one else had turned to them for help.

Photo: ČTK/AP/Hassan Ammar

However the tragic blast touched at least one Czech personally – the world famous Czech fashion designer Blanka Matragi told Czech Radio the explosion blasted through the windows of her workshop.

“The blast tore through the windows of the atelier – sending an entire glass wall crashing onto the fabrics that were being embroidered. Luckily I left half an hour early that day, and so did my seamstresses, which saved our lives because we would have been right under those glass windows.”