Hero firefighters recall tragedy of Christchurch quake

THEY were part of the second international rescue teams to touch down on the broken and trembling island.

With just two hours notice, Toowoomba firefighters Stewart Lange, Tony Guse and Karl Noble had packed up and headed to Brisbane, loaded up 26 tonnes of equipment and flown out to Christchurch.

It was ground zero of New Zealand's deadliest peacetime disaster where 185 people had been killed, buried beneath rubble of a broken city.

The February 2011 disaster was the third - and deadliest - disaster the three members of the Urban Search and Rescue Queensland Taskforce 1 had been part of in as many months.

They had helped North Queensland bunker down during Cyclone Yasi in December, and rescued people from flooded roads in Toowoomba during the January floods.

But our three heroes didn't hesitate when the United Nations called for their help.

Toowoomba Queensland Fire and Emergency Service firefighters Stewart Lange, Tony Guse and Karl Noble received medals for their work in the Christchurch earthquake disaster.
Toowoomba Queensland Fire and Emergency Service firefighters Stewart Lange, Tony Guse and Karl Noble received medals for their work in the Christchurch earthquake disaster. Nev Madsen

They were tasked with clearing the Canterbury Television Building, the six-storey building which crumbled to the ground after the 6.3-magnitude quake rocked the southern island.

More than 90 people were killed at that site alone.

THEIR STORIES

Some 429 rescue personnel were sourced from around the world including Australia, the United Kingdom, United States, Taiwan, China and Singapore.

It was a grim task, but our heroes can proudly say they were able to give the quake victims' families closure.

Emergency services in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.
Emergency services in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake. Sarah Ivey

This week, Mr Lange, Mr Guse and Mr Noble were among the 77 members of the heavy rescue team to receive the Australian Government Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal.

They reflect on their role during the disaster, the impact it had on them, and the strong bonds they developed with local firefighters.


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