A TEAM of Cheshire firefighters saved the lives of the victims trapped in devastating flooding in Bosnia.
The six men, including Runcorn fire station manager Mark Bushell, have returned safely from their challenging mission.
They were part of a 33 strong UK flood response team who flew into action after a state of emergency was declared.
Watch manager, Mark Coleman, Cheshire’s team leader, said: “The flood water had had a devastating impact on communities. Many people had found themselves completely cut off without clean water, food or medication for days.
“We took boats and other equipment with us to reach these remote areas and rescue people, who I am certain would not have survived if we had not reached them when we did.
“Many of those we rescued were located in the remote areas of northern Bosnia, which was where the floods had first hit.
“On our first day, we rescued 19 people including a grandmother, her daughter and grand-daughter who had not had anything to eat or drink for more than three days.”
The rescue team faced tough conditions as they attempted to reach people trapped by the waters.
Mark added: “The temperature was between 36 and 38 degrees and because of the amount of debris in the water we found ourselves having to row the boat rather than use the motor, hot work especially when wearing a protective dry-suit.
“However, the look of relief and sheer gratitude on the faces of the people we met more than made up for any discomfort we encountered.
"Many of them knew they would not have survived much longer. Their first instinct was to throw their arms around us in a big hug. It was just so moving.”
The team also worked alongside engineers to restore power to a large number of homes that had been without it for more than seven days.
The firefighters helped to transport food to livestock and animals who had also been cut off by the water.
The six from Cheshire worked alongside firefighters from Greater Manchester, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, West Midlands and West Sussex.
The team included watch manager Mark Coleman and watch manager Paul Bickerton from the training department at the service’s HQ in Winsford, crew manager Daryl Codling from Knutsford Fire Station, firefighter Alexander Hayes from Crewe Fire Station and firefighter John Turner from Warrington Fire Station.