Rescue SA receives heroes' welcome

Monday, March 28, 2011

Johannesburg - The sound of vuvuzelas echoed throughout OR Tambo International Airport today, as South Africans emotionally welcomed back from Japan the brave men and women of Rescue SA. 

The Rescue SA team left South Africa for quake and tsunami ravaged Japan on 15 March to lend their assistance to that country. The team, which comprised doctors and paramedics among others, joined in the search for bodies following the 11 March incident, which had led to many deaths. To date, many people are still unaccounted for.

Speaking to BuaNews while awaiting the arrival of her husband William at OR International Airport on Monday, Francinah Ntladi said not seeing her husband for two weeks led to a lot of questions from her youngest child who is nine-years-old. 

Francinah and William, who is with the Boksburg Emergency Services, have three children aged 21, 11 and nine. For William, this is his second rescue operation, with the first being in Haiti last year.

"I can't wait to see him," she said before his arrival.

Wallace Sellar, one of the rescuers who hails from the Cape Town Emergency Services, described his experience in Japan: "We had to conquer the weather elements. It was sad to see but people worked hard to [avoid] being flattened and wiped out," he said.

Sellar worked in the field recovering bodies. He told BuaNews he helped recover seven bodies.

Sellar said his experience taught him to appreciate life and not take things for granted "because you can lose it all tomorrow."

He was very humbled by the "respectable and very disciplined nature of Japanese people."

Rescue SA team leader Collin Deiner thanked South Africans for believing in the team, while Department of International Relations and Coorperation ambassador, Sisa Ngombane, expressed pride in the team. 

"We are very proud of team SA who answered the call of the Japanese. Japan saw your mark, thank you for all you sacrificed."

Japanese ambassador Toshiro Ozawa said: "I told the team earlier that their assistance will be a symbol of friendship and solidarity. This team worked on the north eastern side where weather conditions were harsh. They were well prepared. Reports I received on the ground about them were full of praise."

Ansie Vosloo said she was very proud of her husband George Vosloo, although she and her children missed him a lot in the past two weeks. The family kept in touch via SMS.