Dr Russell - Japan Earthquake - 12 - 13th March 2011
Luckily, the call didn't come in the night so it meant that a. we did spend our family evening together and b. I got a decent sleep. Still slightly on New Zealand time, I woke early thinking that having not been called through the night, perhaps things were not quite as bad as first seemed. I only had to put the TV on to see more news footage showing utter devastation and casualty figures rising further and further - no doubt the true figure is way beyond what is being currently shown. Despite a text from Iain at 07:30hrs, saying 'no news', I started to think a deployment was even more likely.
Added to the physical destruction from the earthquake and the tsunami is the spectre of nuclear power stations seemingly on the brink of melt-down, which adds a whole new dimension, frightening in very different ways.
09:42hrs - telephone call from Iain. UK ISAR is to deploy. Medical team includes Drs John Darcy, James Hickman, Nick Maskery and me. Could I please head for Manchester to rendezvous near the airport, aiming to be there around lunchtime, possible flight 16:00hrs.
Within 10 minutes, having said farewell to Ann and the kids, I was on my way.
Spoke to Iain about taking radiation dosimeters and he agreed it made sense and that the team would have them to take. Just for 'belt and braces' I called in at the West Midlands Ambulance Service HART base, where the guys kindly re-calibrated and re-set my personal dosimeter. Arrived in Manchester at lunchtime and booked in.
What then followed was the familiar 'hurry up and wait' process inevitably expected when moving a big team and all of its kit. There are about four of us from the team were also on the New Zealand trip and it was good to see a few familiar faces. Another 60 new names to learn, something I am appallingly bad at.
At the airport we were greeted by the press: some doing interviews and a few to come with us. The search dogs make great magnets for the photographers. A couple of interviews and then through to a lounge in departures.
The terminal was almost deserted - we were the only flight scheduled in the evening - and we ended up taking off around 22:30hrs. The plane was chartered for the trip so we were the only ones aboard, so plenty of space to sprawl out. Immediately set my watch to Tokyo time (9 hours ahead, 07:30hrs) and fell into quite a deep sleep as the wheels lifted off. Woke several hours later to find that we were well over Siberia and the cabin was strewn with sparked-out personnel.
We thought we were flying to Tokyo but we landed at Misawa, at a US air base in the North East. After efficient immigration processing, we were taken by bus to a gym where camp beds had been made up for us. The plan is to stay here tonight and move first thing in the morning.