A GUTSY firefighter from Kinver has returned from international search and rescue efforts in earthquake hit Turkey where he was part of a UK team that managed to pull eight people from the rubble.

Jim McParland, of West Midlands Fire Service, has been a member of the UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team for nearly 20 years, helping to co-ordinate rescue efforts in disaster zones around the world.

The 50-year-old runs the command support element of major rescue operations but on this deployment, sanctioned by the UK government, he also got “hands on” with the search and rescue work.

He described the 10-day mission as “very full on” and said: “We didn’t sleep much. You’re working constantly – 20-21 hours a day. Every building was either fully or partially collapsed – and a lot were multi-storey accommodation buildings.”

Stourbridge News:  The devastation in the Haytay province area of Turkey where UKISAR team members have been searching for survivors The devastation in the Haytay province area of Turkey where UKISAR team members have been searching for survivors (Image: Jim McParland/UKISAR)

The team managed to rescue eight people trapped underneath collapsed buildings in Haytay province, south west Turkey, following the 7.8-quake on February 6 that has killed more than 40,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

Jim said: “Two of them were deeply embedded under a seven-storey collapsed building.

“It took the whole team a total of 19 hours to get to them. We had to tunnel through five floors that had collapsed on to each other.”

The trapped man and woman, believed to be in their 50s, had lain for six days under the collapsed office/residential building before they were rescued.

Jim said: “They were in good shape considering it was on day six that we got to them and were able to extract them.”

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The team also rescued a family of three, including a two-year-old girl.

Jim said: “That was quite special, they’d been under the rubble for three days.”

He said the mission had been the “most successful search and rescue that the UK ISAR team has been deployed to”.

Stourbridge News: UKISAR team members in the Haytay province area of TurkeyUKISAR team members in the Haytay province area of Turkey (Image: Jim McParland/UKISAR)

As well as rescuing eight people from the rubble themselves, the UK team helped to find a further three casualties who were rescued by other international teams.

After 10 days in Turkey – seven of which were full on search and rescue days – the decision was made to return to the UK.

Jim, who helped with search and rescue efforts in the 2011 earthquake in New Zealand, said: “It’s always a very hard decision to leave but it’s one made by the UK government. The search and rescue period is normally about five days and we did a couple of extra couple of days.

“We were one of the first teams in the country and had been working incredibly hard – by the time we left there were an awful lot of rescue teams there from across the world.”

Stourbridge News: Search and rescuers in quake-hit TurkeySearch and rescuers in quake-hit Turkey (Image: Jim McParland/UKISAR)

He said the excavators have now moved in to start removing the rubble but people still searching for lost loved ones should not give up.

He said: “There’s always hope. There are miracle stories of people being rescued after 10 or 11 days – it’s very slim but still worth maintaining hope.”

The brave dad, who is married and has two teenaged children, has a few well-earned days off before returning to his usual job as watch commander of the fire service’s technical rescue unit in Wednesbury.

As a member of UKISAR, however, Jim – who helped deliver fire engines to Ukraine last year – must always be prepared for deployment should disaster strike again.

He said: “I’m busy getting everything ready in case another one comes in.”