On the night of 26 November 2019, the Republic of Albania was hit by a violent earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale. Dozens of victims lost their lives and hundreds were injured. In the affected areas around the port city of Durres, many houses have been damaged. Through the emergency mechanism B-FAST, relief workers were immediately ready to respond positively to a call for international assistance from the affected country.
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Large parts of South America have been affected by forest fires in the Amazon, including Bolivia. More than 4 million hectares of the Amazon forest already went up in flames. Over 2000 firefighters were deployed throughout the entire area. These are the most devastating fires of the past ten years and the difficult month of September, that traditionally has many fires, has only just begun. The Bolivian authorities therefore asked the international community for help. Our country offers relief supplies through a coordination mechanism of the European Commission. Other European countries such as France, Switzerland and Austria also decided to send specialised assistance.
On Tuesday 2nd of October, Belgium had proposed first help and support to Indonesia via B-FAST. Local technical requirements described by Indonesia, as wel as related organisational requirements, do not allow however to be able to carry out the proposed mission properly.
Following the earthquake and tsunami that struck Sulawesi last Friday, the Coordination Council of B-FAST decided to offer first aid and support to Indonesia.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders informs that our country sends B-FAST with relief supplies and a water purification unit to Dominica. This island in the Caribbean was heavily damaged by hurricane Maria. Belgium’s intervention comes in answer to a request for assistance from Dominica.
From 22 to 26 March 2017, B-FAST took part in an international exercise on disaster response. This initiative, called “EU RICHTER”, was co-financed by the European Commission and was the first real large scale exercise outside continental Europe. But not entirely outside of the European Union. The Antilles still count overseas territories of different European countries (France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). The purpose of this exercise was to test the emergency chain in collaboration with the European Civil Protection Mechanism in the context of a sudden natural disaster (earthquake, tsunamis, etc.). This scenario entails among others the immediate emergency response, the B-FAST's core specialty.
B-FAST, like other international rescue teams, closely follows the situation in Haiti, hit by Hurricane Matthew. This is done through an electronic platform of the United Nations. Based on the information from this platform, B-FAST evaluates the possibility of providing assistance. It is important that this emergency aid has an added value to the aid already deployed on the ground.
The Belgian First Aid and Support Team (B-Fast) participates from 4 to 8 October in an large scale international exercise in Sicily. During this exercise, an emergency aid operation in a third country will be simulated. The B-Fast USAR team (Urban Search and Rescue) will practice, with other international USAR teams, procedures for tracking and liberating victims underneath the debris of collapsed buildings. USAR is a ‘module’ responsible for search and rescue operations in urban surroundings. It meets the relevant international standards.