Our common language: Saving lives

Our common language: Saving lives
The Singapore Civil Defense Force team doing a search and rescue mission during the ARDEX13 exercise in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Every year, 500 people in Vietnam die from natural disasters such as floods and tropical storms, according to the United Nations (UN) Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

So, it was apt that the country hosted a regional disaster emergency exercise last week. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) sent eight officers.

The backdrop for the ASEAN Disaster Emergency Response Simulation Exercise (Ardex), from Oct 21 to Oct 24, was a typhoon in Hanoi. A collapsed three-storey building, with 30 trapped live "casualties" inside, was the challenge facing SCDF rescuers.

Racing against time, the team had to cut through concrete and metal to free the "victims".

Using ropes and stretchers, the team freed them and evacuated them to the first storey.

Around 15 "casualties" were rescued this way by SCDF in the tense 80-minute scenario. The rest were rescued by teams from Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam.

This was one of four scenarios carried out during the exercise.

Other scenarios were a rescue in a flooded area, search and rescue in chemical incidents and setting up a field hospital.

While only a simulation, the sight of toppled buildings in Vietnam is not far from reality, as the central coast of the country had only recently been hit by Typhoon Nari, resulting in severe floods.

Eleven people were killed and five are still missing.

As South-east Asia is one of the most natural disaster-prone regions in the world, the expertise gained during the exercise will prove invaluable in SCDF's future overseas operations.

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