THE head of Hampshire’s urban search and rescue team has described the devastating scale of destruction in the wake of the Didcot power station disaster.
At least one person was killed and five others are in hospital after a concrete and steel building at the derelict Didcot A site in south Oxfordshire came down while it was being prepared for demolition.
A further three people remain unaccounted for.
Hampshire’s contingent arrived yesterday and worked through the night in an effort to find anyone trapped in the rubble.
Speaking to The News from the scene of the disaster, Jerry Leonard, group manager for the county’s urban search and rescue team, said crews were determined to rescue any survivors.
‘It’s an absolutely massive building of which probably 50 per cent has collapsed,’ he said.
‘The scale of damage is enormous; it’s a massive pile of unstable material.
‘So it makes search and rescue operations challenging.’
He added: ‘All the crews are still upbeat and there’s still a positive feeling.
‘But the crews are realistic about things. With the amount of damage that has been done, they understand this could turn from a rescue operation to a recovery one.’
A further four members from the county’s urban search and rescue squad will arrive to support their fellow firefighters later this evening.
They will then work on a 12-hour shift rotation for as long as necessary,’ said group manager Leonard.
So far, more than 30 search and rescue firefighters from across the region are involved in the operation, with a further team of about 20 firefighters from Oxford supporting them.
Group manager Leonard explained the operation was ‘likely to be a protracted one’ due to the scale and complexity of the disaster.
‘Looking at it and having seen the magnitude and size of the building which has collapsed, it’s just phenomenal,’ he said.
‘You have to think: “How are we going to square this away?”.’
Although a large portion of the county’s urban search and rescue team has been deployed to Oxfordshire, group manager Leonard said the level of response in Hampshire would not be affected during this time.
‘There will be no change to our capability in the county,’ he added.
‘As Hampshire’s search and rescue team is 30-strong it will remain business as usual.’
So far some 50 people were treated for dust inhalation.
A 100m cordon has been placed around the scene while rescue operations continue.
The height of the rubble pile is between 20 and 30 feet.
A solitary floral tribute left at the scene reads: ‘Rest in peace. To a hardworking soul. From a ‘Didcot’ resident. Thoughts of those injured and those missing.’