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Firefighters commemorate Japan tsunami first anniversary

Published: 9th March 2012

Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Australian Task Force members who were deployed to assist in the
aftermath of the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami joined fellow firefighters at a special
ceremony at City of Sydney Fire Station today (9 March) to mark the upcoming first anniversary of the
disaster.


A minute’s silence was observed at the commemorative ceremony to remember fallen comrades and
the many thousands who died when an 8.9 magnitude earthquake, followed by a tsunami up to 10m
high, struck the east coast of Japan on 11 March 2011.


In a further tribute, FRNSW unfurled its banner and affixed a battle shield to commemorate the major
campaign.


A 76-person Australian multi-agency urban search and rescue Task Force, led by FRNSW and
comprising firefighter rescue specialists, structural engineers, paramedics, doctors, and a police
specialist, arrived in Japan on 14 March 2011 and travelled to Minami Sanriku – one of the worst affected
areas.


More than 10,000 people were reported missing in this area alone which was the closest point on
Japan’s coast to the earthquake’s epicentre.


FRNSW Deputy Commissioner John Benson, who led today’s ceremony, said a typical day’s
work saw Task Force personnel search buildings and vehicles for live victims and helping to recover
bodies.


“They were also able to recover personal belongings for locals who thought they had lost everything. The
Task Force also assisted people at shelters in the city of Tome,” Deputy Commissioner Benson said.

“Task Force members worked under very challenging conditions: regular aftershocks which reached 6.5
magnitude and subsequent risks of another tsunami; deteriorating conditions at the Fukushima nuclear
power plant; and severe weather, which reached -17C degrees, often with heavy snow.”


The Task Force returned home on Monday 21 March 2011 but the close relationship forged between
FRNSW and the Japanese authorities during the deployment continues to this day.


“Task Force leader, FRNSW’s Chief Superintendent Rob McNeil, will be attending a number of
commemorative ceremonies and events in Japan and will pass on FRNSW’s condolences and best
wishes at this difficult time,” Deputy Commissioner Benson said.

What: Commemorative ceremony to mark first anniversary of Japan tsunami and earthquake
When: 11.45am for noon start 9 March
Where: City of Sydney Fire Station, 213 Castlereagh St, Sydney
Who: FRNSW Deputy Commissioner John Benson and FRNSW Task Force members, who gave interviews following the ceremony.