SWO1 Irianto Bin Marino (left) and MAJ Abdul Razak Senin (right) holding their well-deserved medallion.
MAJOR (MAJ) Abdul Razak Senin and Senior Warrant Officer (SWO1) Irianto Bin Marino can never forget their first overseas operation as rescuers from the newly formed Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) twenty-seven years ago. It was also the year when they had just graduated from the 1st DART Conversion Course.
Five months after the conversion course, on 11 December 1993, a huge mudslide brought on by the heavy December rains triggered the collapse of a 12-storey building on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Within hours, DART rescuers were activated to assist in the rescue mission at Highland Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
“I was shopping along Orchard Road when I received a voice message on my pager and I knew I had to report back to DART base within an hour,” recalled SWO1 Irianto, who was part of the initial seven-member contingent activated for this overseas operation.
Upon arrival at the disaster site, the DART rescuers conducted an Appreciation of Situation (AOS) by surveying the collapsed building and its surrounding. An AOS is an important operational function is any search and rescue (SAR) operation as it allows rescuers to plan, prioritise and strategise their rescue efforts.
“The rescue efforts were long and arduous, and we worked endlessly for nine days in our search for survivors,” said SWO1 Irianto.
SWO1 Irianto, then Private (PTE) Irianto (beside the cameraman) along with other DART rescuers unloading equipment at the disaster site.
DART rescuers had to be lifted on the excavator to access the higher floors to search for survivors and casualties.
“The entire place was strewn with rubble and debris when we arrived. We had to stabilise the concrete slabs with struts to prevent the walls from further collapsing. This was even more challenging with the constant rain and at one stage during the operation, there was a minor landslide, and all rescue efforts were temporarily halted. We had to be extra cautious as our lives could be at risk. This was my first overseas operation as a DART rescuer and it was truly an eye-opening experience,” recalled MAJ Abdul Razak, who was part of the second DART rescue team to arrive at the disaster site.
DART rescuers working round-the-clock searching thoroughly through the rubble for signs of life
“The good news was that we were not alone,” said SWO1 Irianto. “Rescue teams from France and Japan were there to assist in the SAR operations from the third day onwards. They had rescue dogs and a host of SAR rescue equipment to aid them in their search for survivors and casualties. We had to innovate with what we had as we toiled away refusing to give up until we recovered all the bodies from the site.”
“The Malaysian rescue team found two survivors while we managed to recover the remaining 48 casualties. But what made this memorable for me was DART’s camaraderie and the openness of communication and trust with our fellow rescuers from the Malaysian rescue unit and the international rescue teams. We were there with a common goal to help,” said MAJ Abdul Razak.
SWO1 Irianto, then PTE Irianto, (back row; fourth from the left) and MAJ Abdul Razak, then Sergeant Abdul Razak, (front row; fourth from the left) with Mr Wong Kan Seng (back row; sixth person from the left), then Minister of Home Affairs, and former Commissioner James Tan (back row; fourth person from the right) at the appreciation dinner held in Singapore after the rescue mission.
As DART’s pioneering veterans, MAJ Abdul Razak and SWO1 Irianto have seen the development of DART since its formative years — from a small unit with 24 rescuers to the 68 rescuers today; from relying on innovative rescue methods to the integration of state-of-the-art equipment for urban, height and deep-water search and rescue operations.
SWO1 Irianto undergoing his annual DART Specialist Certification Training to keep his DART tab.
DART divers using the latest Surface Supplied Diving Equipment (SSDE) for deep-water rescue operations.
“27 years on, DART has grown from strength to strength, learning from best practices around the world and building our capabilities to become a highly proficient, effective and professional rescue team. Today, DART has achieved worldwide recognition for its operational excellence and has integrated the use of more sophisticated technology into its operations and training programmes. I am very proud of DART and am confident that the unit will bring SCDF to greater heights in the years to come,” said MAJ Abdul Razak.
On 26 October 2020, MAJ Abdul Razak and SWO1 Irianto were among the eight DART members who received a medallion each for their immense contributions over the years. MAJ Abdul Razak was DART’s Unit Sergeant Major from 1998 to 2000. Today, he is a Senior Supply Management Officer at the SCDF Marine Division. SWO1 Irianto served in DART from 1993 to 2001. Today, he is a Senior Course Specialist at the Civil Defence Academy imparting his knowledge, experience and skills to the trainees under his charge.