A massive earthquake hit Eastern Sichuan, China on 12 May 2008. According to “The Straits Times” (24 June 2008), the quake resulted in nearly 70,000 dead, 18,000 missing and 375,000 injured. About 5 million were also rendered homeless. Following this 7.8-magnitude quake, SCDF deployed its overseas Lionheart Contingent to China on 16 May 2008. Its mission was to assist local authorities in search and rescue efforts at the quake-hit region. The contingent departed Paya Lebar Airbase on 16 May 2008 via 2 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) C-130 military aircrafts.
Led by LTC Fracis Ng How Juah, Commander of 4th Civil Defence Division, the 55-member contingent included experienced officers from SCDF’s Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) which specialized in carrying out complex rescue missions. The contingent was equipped with a host of search and rescue equipment such as fibre-optic scopes, life detector systems and hydraulic cutters and spreaders. The contingent also brought along 4 search dogs for the mission. The contingent was self-sufficient in terms of food, fuel and equipment.
The SCDF contingent was based in Hongbai Township in Shifang city as part of international humanitarian assistance to quake victims in the area. The Singapore team was 1 of 4 foreign rescue teams deployed after the May 12 Sichuan quake to provide relief efforts. The other foreign rescuers came from Japan, Russia and Republic of Korea.
In its 5-day Sichuan Earthquake mission, the contingent conducted search operations at over a dozen sites of collapsed buildings. 5 bodies were uncovered and extricated from the collapsed structures and rubbles. The rescuers also rendered other forms of assistance to the locals affected by the disastrous aftermath of the quake and its many aftershocks. This included the construction of a makeshift link bridge on 19 May 2008 at an area hit by a massive landslide. But as operations in Hongbai town shifted to the “recovery” phase, arrangements were made for the contingent’s return to Singapore.
Prior to the contingent’s departure, a simple appreciation ceremony was hosted by the Vice Governor of Sichuan, Huang Yanrong to thank the rescuers. A banner was presented to the Contingent Commander.
The first batch of 39 rescuers touched down at Paya Lebar Airbase on 22 May in 2 SAF aircrafts. They were received by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs, and Mdm Zhang Xiao Kang, PRC Ambassador to Singapore. The remaining 16 rescuers left China for home on 23 May 2008 on a commercial flight.