Radek Svatos - a man's best friend helping in earthquake-devastated Bam

Czech rescue workers, Radek Svatos (right), Photo: Zdenek Valis

Czech dog-handlers were among the first foreign rescue workers to arrive in the Iranian city of Bam after last month's devastating earthquake. They remained for only three days, in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but during that time they won a great deal of respect for their work searching for survivors and finding the bodies of the dead. Among them was Radek Svatos, and here he recalls some of his impressions.

Czech rescue workers,  Radek Svatos  (right),  Photo: Zdenek Valis
"My experiences were really mixed. The good thing was that we were among the first to arrive. This bore fruit, and we managed to find one person alive. But what was awful was to see all those dead bodies everywhere. They were transporting them on the back of motorbikes, on the bonnets of cars. We saw one car carrying three bodies in this way. One of the bodies fell on the ground. Someone jumped out, put the body back, and drove on. At the camp were we were stationed, a car arrived. The day before it had been carrying dead bodies away. Now the same car was standing there, distributing bread to people who had lost their homes. These were unforgettable experiences.

"Another thing was our dogs. The locals weren't used to the idea of dogs as man's best friend. When they saw the amazing things that our dogs could do, they began to look on them very differently. The dogs worked even harder than we did. They knew what was expected of them, and worked until they dropped."