Lincolnshire firefighters return from Morocco earthquake zone

Video report by Amelia Beckett

Four firefighters from Lincolnshire, who helped with the rescue effort after an earthquake struck Morocco have said nothing could have prepared them for the scale of damage.

The 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck on 8 September, killing more than 2,900 people and injuring more than 5,000.

Four Lincolnshire firefighters and a rescue dog were part of the UK International Search and Rescue Team.

Team member Neil Woodmansey was the only one of four who had been deployed to earthquake zones before, having helped in the aftermath of earthquakes in Turkey, Haiti and Pakistan.

He said he is always amazed at people's kindess despite having just lost everything.

"They were just lovely people", he said. "It was quite humbling knowing what they'd gone through and yet they wanted to help us, when we were supposed to be helping them."

Mr Woodmansey was assisted by search dog Colin, who is one of only six dogs in the UK who can carry out such specialist rescues.

Neil Woodmansey and search dog Colin Credit: ITV Calendar

Alongside Karl Keuneke, Darren Burchnall and Ben Clarke, they were among 60 firefighters from 14 UK fire services to join the team.

The epicentre of the tremor was in the High Atlas Mountains, about 44 miles from Marrakesh, and many of the worst affected areas were remote villages and towns.

Mr Burchnall said it would take up to five hours to reach affected villages due to blocked roads and "really narrow mountain tracks" and aftershocks also thwarted their efforts to get to remote locations.

Because many of the houses were made of clay and mud, most crumbled in the quake meaning the team were unable to carry out any live rescues.

Tents set up in the town of Amizmiz Credit: Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP

Instead most of their efforts were focused on first aid.

Mr Keuneke, who is usually based at Lincoln South fire station, said a "lot of families" had had "everything taken away from them - their homes and loved ones".

"We're used to seeing people at some of the worst times in their lives, but to see it on that sort of scale, it was completely different to anything I have experienced."

Mr Clarke, who is based at Sleaford fire station, said what he experienced will always stay with him.

"It doesn't matter what religion, what culture, what your background is, in that time of need you're all there to help each other.

"That for me gave me a new lease of faith in humanity and will stay with me for the rest of my career, the rest of my life." he said.