THW comes to Lebanon’s aid
In the wake of the disastrous explosion in Beirut, Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief is providing support in the form of experts and equipment.
When Günter Steinmüller was woken by the call at 2 o’clock on Wednesday morning, he knew what it would be about. He had seen the pictures of the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port area on the evening news. Steinmüller heads the local branch of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) in Rüsselsheim, close to Frankfurt Airport. This is where the THW’s expert personnel set off on relief missions all over the world.
Rescue team flies from Frankfurt to Beirut
A team of 50 relief workers also flew straight to Lebanon from there on Wednesday evening. “The members of the Rapid Deployment Unit for Salvage Operations Abroad (Seeba) are ready to go in a matter of hours”, explains Steinmüller. All the experts need before they can depart is the green light from the government of the country in which their mission will be taking place. The team includes doctors, logistics experts and dog handlers. The Seeba team provided assistance following the earthquake in Iran in 2003, in Pakistan in 2005 and also after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
The team meets in Rüsselsheim before setting off to discuss the mission. The equipment they will need comes from the Centre for Foreign Logistics Centre in Mainz. “It’s ideal that Rüsselsheim and Mainz are located in such close proximity to Frankfurt Airport”, says Steinmüller. This allows the THW to travel quickly to other countries. “Speed is vital, especially after disasters of this kind. The likelihood of finding people alive under the rubble is highest in the first 72 hours”, explains the branch chief.
This is why the canine unit is the first to be deployed. “The dogs search for survivors. When they become too tired, the relief workers use specialist search equipment”, says Steinmüller.
The Seeba team is always on call
The Seeba team specialists have to be ready to go at any time, even in their everyday lives. “The team members are trained to be ready to fly within six hours. This requires them to undergo regular tests, without which they are not allowed to take part in missions abroad”, explains Steinmüller. Alongside the aid personnel who conduct the salvage and rescue operations, experts also travelled to Lebanon to help the local authorities assess the situation, inspect damage to buildings and support the German embassy.