SIX firefighters from Cheshire have returned from Bosnia this week after battling the widespread flooding which has affected a large part of the Balkans.
A team of firefighters from Cheshire returned safely from a challenging mission hat involved them battling the elements to rescue people trapped by flood water.
They went out to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help in the aftermath of widespread flooding that had resulted in a state of emergency being declared in parts of the Balkan region.
The six, who formed part of a 33-strong UK Flood Response Team, were watch managers Mark Coleman and Paul Bickerton, station manager Mark Bushell, crew manager Daryl Codling and firefighters Alexander Hayes and John Turner.
Watch Manager Coleman, who was Cheshire’s team leader, said: “The flood water had had a devastating impact on the communities out there. Many people had found themselves completely cut off without clean water, food or medication for days.
“We took with us boats and other equipment that enabled us to reach these remote areas and rescue people, who I am certain would not have survived if we had not reached them when we did.
“Many of those we rescued were located in the remote areas of northern Bosnia, which was where the floods had first hit. On just our first day out there we rescued 19 people, including a grandmother, her daughter and granddaughter, who had not had anything to eat or drink for more than three days.”
The rescue team had to deal with some tough conditions as they attempted to reach people.
Mark added: “The temperature was between 36 and 38 degrees and because of the amount of debris in the water we found ourselves having to row the boat rather than use the motor – hot work especially when wearing a protective dry-suit!
“However, the look of relief and sheer gratitude on the faces of the people we met more than made up for any discomfort we encountered.
“Many of them knew they would not have survived much longer. Their first instinct was to throw their arms around us in a big hug – it was just so moving.”
In addition to rescuing people the team also worked alongside engineers to restore power to a large number of homes that had been without it for more than seven days.
Although attending to people was the team’s first priority, they were also able to help transport food to livestock and animals also cut off by the floods.
The six from Cheshire worked alongside firefighters from Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, West Midlands and West Sussex.