|Ian Neal is distributing aid with a ShelterBox Response Team in the Sendai area of Japasn
A British firefighter has paid an emotional tribute to the Japanese fire officers who lost their lives during the recent earthquake and tsunami.
Ian Neal is a crew manager for the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and a volunteer for international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox. He is currently distributing aid with a ShelterBox Response Team in the Sendai area of Japan; one of the areas hardest hit by the tsunami three weeks ago. When local authorities learned he was a firefighter in the UK, they brought him to the wreckage of a fire truck from the Yamamoto Fire Service.
Ian said: "Fire officer Watanabe from Yamamoto, died when the wave struck this truck. He was in the tsunami zone helping move people to higher ground when he lost his life.It was very emotional seeing the wreckage of the fire engine today, fire services all over the world are groups of dedicated individuals who are helping people – sometimes at great risk to themselves. There was so much loss of life during this tsunami and many bodies have yet to be recovered. We really feel the pain of the people of Japan and today, our thoughts are with the rescue workers who are continuing to serve and with the family of officer Watanabe."
Watch manager, Des O’Connell, who serves with Ian at the Penance Community Fire Station said that many of the firefighters at the station have volunteered to cover Ian’s shifts so that he was able to go to Japan after the earthquake. "All of us understand how big this tsunami was, and how important it is to get victims out of the elements and into shelter. We’re happy to be able to do what we can to help ShelterBox deliver the tents and equipment."
To date over 1,500 Shelter Boxes are in Japan being distributed by highly skilled ShelterBox Response Teams. A further 1,000 are en route and thousands more are on standby. Each ShelterBox typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water purification and storage equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children's activity pack and other vital items.