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Australian Search, Rescue Team Ends Japan Disaster Area Work

An Australian rescue team that specializes in finding people trapped in collapsed buildings is ending its work in Japan and will return home in coming days.

The 72-strong group, which includes medical staff and engineers, has been working in Minami Sanriku, north of Sendai, which was devastated by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami, Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland said today in an e-mailed statement.

Search and rescue teams from the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland have also returned home as Japan shifts its focus toward recovery, McClelland said. The Australian team’s primary job was to find and recover people trapped by the disaster using sniffer dogs from Queensland.

“The team has been searching for survivors in areas of Northern Honshu that have been utterly devastated, tunneling through collapsed buildings and overcoming logistical issues such as fuel shortages and poor communications,” McClelland said in today’s statement.

McClelland thanked the team for the “grim and difficult work” it did in Japan.

At the request of the Japanese government, the group has donated its 76-person tented base in Minami Kata.

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