Exercise simulates cruise ship disaster

A cruise ship sinks in Otago Harbour. What do you do?

Search and rescue co-ordinator Senior Sergeant Brian Benn, of Dunedin, said the response of emergency services were tested yesterday with ''mass casualties'' of cruise ship passengers after a mock disaster in the Otago Harbour.

The drill was designed to ''overwhelm'' emergency staff and to discover the best ways to utilise the available resources, he said.

Snr Sgt Benn was impressed with the problem solving skills of emergency staff at the ''coal face''.

The mock water rescue had been planned for Otago Peninsula at Taiaroa Head but strong winds had contained the exercise to Portobello Bay.

The exercise involved 75 volunteers as ''live casualties'' and Wild Earth Adventures raft guides to float in the harbour, awaiting rescue.

And 45 bobbing soccer balls in the harbour represented deceased passengers to be taken to a temporary morgue at Back Beach, Port Chalmers, Snr Sgt Benn said.

Forsyth Barr Stadium was a ''welfare centre'' for the live casualties to have their injuries accessed.

Some of the live casualties were volunteers from the Green Island Lions, the Sea Scouts and the Sea Cadets and were given a soccer ball as thanks for their time, he said.

New Zealand Search and Rescue training co-ordinator Phil Burgess said emergency staff would be debriefed on the exercise to pinpoint areas for improvement in a disaster.

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

 

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