Search and evaluation team back from Japan

Bern, Press release, 22.03.2011

The Swiss Humanitarian Aid team of experts sent to Japan on a search and evaluation mission will return home tonight. This does not mean, however, that the Confederation’s present commitments in the archipelago have ended. Swiss Humanitarian Aid experts are still active in Tokyo and Osaka, where they are providing support to the Embassy in assisting the Swiss in Japan.

The bulk of the Swiss rescue team will return on Saturday evening, arriving at Zurich’s Kloten Airport. The 23 specialists in rescue operations accompanied by nine search dogs had been dispatched to Japan the previous Saturday, following the violent earthquake and the subsequent tsunami. Their departure from Japan, delayed in relation to the original planning for reasons that had to do with logistics, finally took place early Saturday morning. The Swiss team travelled together with the German rescue team aboard a charter flight to Manchester and from there to Zurich-Kloten. 

The Swiss rescuers operated in an area some 100 kilometres north of the city of Sendai and about 150 kilometres distant from the Fukushima I and II nuclear power stations. With the help of trained dogs and special detection equipment the team managed to locate three persons under the debris. This information was duly passed on to the Japanese authorities responsible.

Throughout the operation specialists of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) including a radiation protection expert, ensured the team’s security, with frequent measurements of the on-site radioactivity levels. At no time was any increase in radioactivity recorded in the theatres of operation.

Switzerland was quick to offer its services to Japan following the natural disaster of 11 March. The Swiss search and evaluation team worked in tandem with the local authorities and teams from other countries sent to assist victims of the disaster, notably the German team. The team’s efforts were greatly appreciated, being seen by the people and authorities of Japan as an expression of Swiss solidarity in a particularly difficult situation.

Although the rescue specialists have now returned, the Confederation is still present in Japan. Members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit have remained behind to assist the efforts of the Swiss Embassy. They are there to help Swiss citizens who wish to leave Japan and to assist the Swiss missions in Tokyo and Osaka with crisis management and coordination.

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Federal Department of Foreign Affairs