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The Icelandic Search and Rescue Teams: Haiti Response

Production year: 2010 | 1x52'/70' | Genres: Lifestyle / Travel
The Icelandic Search and Rescue Teams: Haiti Response
Origin country: Iceland
Production company: Saga Productions Ltd.
Original title: Íslenska Alþjóðabjörgunarsveitin
Original language: Icelandic
Formats: HD

Twenty three hours after the Haiti earthquake of the 12th of January 2010 a group of 36 highly trained ICE-SAR volunteers touched down in Haiti. They were the first international rescue team to arrive. They immediately got to work and the following day saved three victims from the ruins of the Caribbean Market, a local supermarket in the Port-au-Prince. This is a story of a rescue team in action, during one of the biggest natural catastrophies in an urban area. The film tells the individual stories of the Icelandic ICE-SAR team members and is supported by unique footage of amazing rescues from the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

In September 2009 the Icelandic Search and Rescue team received an emergency call from the Republic of Thule: An earthquake had destroyed the capital of Cave Town. Population 1.5 million. Thule does not have armed forces. Due to inland unrest the UN has a permanent presence in the country. Request from Thule for international assistance was sent out at 15:00 pm on the 10th of September. The International Search and Rescue Team in Iceland (ICE-SAR) was put on stand by, and at 01:00 am, they had deployed, arriving in the affected country and had already set off on their first assignment.

In reality Thule and Cave Town were imaginary. It was all a setup in a remote site in the countryside of Iceland. The rehearsal was however not imaginary. It had one aim, and that was for the ICE-SAR to qualify internationally as a medium weight Search and Rescue Team and to fullfill standards set up by the United Nations. Present was a team from INSARAG, Internatioanl Search and Rescue Advisary Group, to evaluate all their work.

72 hours later the Icelandic team passed with "flying colors. Reality, according to the UN inspection leader, was that even though the Icelandic team had performed extremely well, it would be highly unlikely that they would ever be called out as a first response unit to an affected area.

It took only four months to prove the UN leader wrong.

At 10 pm the 12th of January 2010 a call out was dispatched to the volunteers of the Icelandic Search and Rescue Team's international unit (ICE-SAR). An earthquake of 7.3 on the Richter scale had struck Haiti and flattened the capital city, Port-au-Prince. The ICE-SAR was put on monitoring stage only 53 minutes after the earthquake, but as the night passed in Iceland, the emergency grew. Twenty three hours after the earthquake ICE-SAR arrived in Haiti - the first international rescue team on site.

In Haiti the ICE-SAR team showed the UN what they were made of. They went to work and during the first ten days after theearthquake they ran the rescue camps, hosted the UN Operational Search and Rescue Centre and proved that all their training was worthwhile.

For the past three years, Sagafilm has been following the life and the work of the Icelandic Search and Rescue Teams. There are 101 rescue units operating in Iceland and the total of 3000 volunteers are on call 24/7. During the past three years we have followed a few leading individuals from different units that all belong to the International Unit that was present in Haiti. This is a story of an enormous individual sacrifice of these volunteers.

We have seen all kinds of call outs, 24/7, all year round. We have witnessed the determination and the strength these people show in case of emergency and we have seen how far they are willing to go to bring people in despair safe back home. We have had cameramen out with them in unbelievable situations in the past three years.

We are now ready to tell the story of the volunteers who made international headlines during their heroic rescues during the crisis in Haiti. We follow them on various tasks and training in Iceland, preparing them for the real call out; The moment when all the hard work pays off. The stories are supported by unique, never before seen material.

Margrét Jónasdóttir

Magnús Viðar Sigurðsson

Still images

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