Four firefighters from the north east have returned home as heroes following a selfless trip to Nepal’s to help the victims of the devastating earthquake.
Dog handler Gary Caroll of Torphins yesterday described the “total destruction” he and John Aitchison of Gourdon, Martin Vardy of Aberdeen and Martyn Ferguson of Turriff encountered on the trip to help those affected by the tragedy.
The firefighters were part of a specialist team from the UK tasked with finding victims buried in the rubble and providing them with life support.
Part of their remit was also to stabilise structures devastated by the quake.
Mr Caroll was deployed along with his search dog, five-year-old springer spaniel Diesel, and returned last Friday.
Mr Caroll, 44, said: “On the ground we’ve seen total destruction in some of the outlying areas of Nepal – most buildings are affected in some way. I saw a lot of buildings that have collapsed.
“We’ve also seen buildings partially collapsed and landslides. A lot of people are under tents or covers because they are too scared to be in the buildings.”
The firefighter has also worked in the aftermath of earthquakes in Indonesia in 2009 and in Christchurch in New Zealand in 2011.
He said that he and Diesel had been “looking out” for each other during the dog’s first ever mission abroad.
He added: “Diesel and I were tasked to search two buildings. Diesel worked well – he covered the whole area and did what he was trained to do.
“Diesel has coped well in Nepal – he’s stayed calm and relaxed. Working with a dog is very rewarding and they can make a difference to our work.
“For example the dogs can help identify casualties, which are an extra tool for the team.
“We always size up a building before we send the dogs in and always give them a good check-up after a search.
“I owned Diesel’s mum so I’ve known Diesel since he was born. His high play drive makes him a great search and rescue dog.
“We’ve got a very close bond. We’ve been through this together – I’m looking out for him and I think he’s looking out for me.”
The crew also included Danny Gall from Kirriemuir and Steve Nicoll from Forfar with the team sent to Nepal as part of the 60-strong UK International Search and Rescue team (UKISAR).
Yesterday, the men were recognised for their work by chief officer for the fire and rescue service, Alasdair Hay, and deputy assistant chief officer for the north, Andy Coueslant.
The death toll since Nepal’s April 25 earthquake yesterday sat at 8,019.