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Dutch search dogs support the rescue effort
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The group has brought four dogs to Sichuan. Saad's 10-year old Labrador Samir is now a veteran, and this will be his last foreign mission. The other three are all Belgian Shepherds, a popular breed for this type of work due to its skills, strength, and courage. They are Bacho, Bifka, and Finder.

How reliable are the dogs, I ask him.

"They are very reliable. They know what they are looking for. In the aftermath of an earthquake, during a rubble search, the dogs might identify more than one trace from the same body, or they might identify a single trace coming from more than one body. But they will identify the traces, and the bodies will be recovered."

Another two traces are identified and flagged.

In Hanwang town they had already identified more than forty traces. They marked the spot with an identification tag, and informed the authorities, who could then excavate. Saad had heard that four bodies had been recovered in Hanwang, though he did not know yet if they were in the areas where Signi had been working.

Naturally, the team always hope to have the chance to look for survivors, but they recognise the importance of tracing the dead as well. There is a health issue, of course. Decomposing bodies will create a risk of spreading disease, and of polluting water sources.

But that is not the major factor for Saad and the other members of the Signi team.

"It is important for the families of the victims. It is hard for them. It will always be difficult, but sometimes we can bring closure. I always try to be professional, but sometimes when we are working with the families of the victims I shed tears as well."

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the contribution of people like these will not be forgotten – three dedicated individuals who have given freely of their own time and effort to travel half-way round the world, in the hope of bringing some comfort to the suffering.

Signi can be contacted at:
Signi Zoekhonden
+31 6 559 44248 / 510 23280

(China.org.cn May 29, 2008)

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