As Morski writes, Croatia has a very long coast and is one of the most indented countries in the whole world due to its complex network of islands, bays and peninsulas. As a result of its geography, it has become increasingly attractive to boaters, divers, as well as other guests who want to enjoy the Adriatic Sea in ways that go beyond having a swim at the beach. If we add speleology exploration to such types of tourism, and then add rivers and other freshwater areas on land, then we realise that the organisation of rescue units trained and equipped for rescues in diverse and often very dangerous conditions is more than necessary.
Due to the growing need for such a service, the newly formed specialist diving group within the water/maritime rescue module of the State Civil Protection Intervention Unit was presented to the public recently. The director of the Civil Protection Directorate of the Republic of Croatia, Dr. Damir Trut, revealed more.
There will be centres of special diving forces in Zagreb, Split, Rijeka and Osijek, says Damir Trut
”The range of tasks that Civil Protection Directorate carries out is really diverse. The State Civil Protection Intervention Unit is a unit that has the highest rank of equipment and training in all of Croatia for the care and assistance of the population. It has multiple segments; for rescue from rubble, rescue from water, rescue in contaminated areas, and the list goes on. These are all areas we’ve strategically improved and planned to add more to over the years.
In addition to the special training of rescue people, additional equipment is needed to make the job faster, more efficient and safer. All the conditions in which rescuers work are the most dangerous of all. Water rescues are another element that lifeguards need to actively work on. They must have good training and have proper licenses, but also good equipment in order to be able to help those most in need.
What is the number of members and where will these people and their centres be stationed?
”The diving unit is within the water rescue unit, which also works in floods, but we’ve expanded it to cover maritime and vessel rescue missions in the tourist season, which is something that is increasingly needed. These units are located in four locations: Zagreb, Rijeka, Split and Osijek. At the Zagreb location, they have three more elements: the media part of it all and the technical team that deals with caves, mapping and the use of the most sophisticated technical equipment, such as robots or scanners. Today, this technique gives us information from greater depths on how and in what way something or someone is endangered.
There are two teams of eight members at each location, meaning the sixteen most capable and skilled divers, who go through different levels of licensing and who are then able to do such jobs. Much of this is funded by EU projects. The Slovenian water rescue unit has a robot that we don’t have yet. We will also procure this equipment, we’re just waiting for the tenders to open and then we’ll start heading in that direction ourselves, too.
Human casualties do tragically occur, and unfortunately there have already been such situations in the Croatian Adriatic…
This is especially true during the tourist season. Accidents do happen then. And we in Croatia have various organisations under the coordination and auspices of the Coast Guard, which jointly participate in rescue operations at sea. This segment of rescue from the depths was not well covered, so we analysed and came to the conclusion that it is necessary to train and equip a unit that can perform very demanding tasks under the sea and at depths of over a hundred metres.
While we didn’t have such a unit, there were situations such as an unfortunate situation in the Sibenik area when special forces from Lucko in Zagreb had to wait to retrieve the body of the injured fisherman, because it was very inconvenient to dive down to the wreck itself. Will these types of interventions be easier now?
We did and we still do have divers who can carry out such tasks, but they weren’t properly organised. They existed within different organisations and bodies and as a result it was very difficult to carry out an organised rescue. It’s important for the unit that it is organised and has a sufficient number of people and that they also have backups and replacements.
You’ve recently done exercises in this particular segment. What did they look like?
”We did it through several elements, we wanted to see if all we’d discussed could be harmonised with the procedures according to which the divers will continue to work. We carried out the rescue of someone who was drowning in a river, then we undertook a cave rescue and dealt with the rescue of people from a vessel that had sunk out at sea. We also did the technical part of filming that ship and making a 3D model of the ship so that we could analyse and see from the land everything that was needed. After the 3D analysis, a 3D model can be printed, so that literally on the table in front of you, engineers who are not divers can provide advice or prepare all the technical elements needed.
In addition to all of that, do rescue divers also use submarines, underwater and flying drones, as well as amphibious vehicles?
Yes, they do. A diver without equipment is still a diver, and with the equipment he is a specialist who can quickly and efficiently provide assistance to a victim and in the particular area in which an unfortunate event has happened.
Have there been rescues so far in caves and in flooded areas?
Yes, the response to such situations has so far been mostly provided by the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service, but that still isn’t enough, because they don’t have the capacities for a longer and stronger rescue. We’ve invited all those who are the best at this to the personnel organisation of the State Intervention Unit. So we have members of the police, firefighters, and the Mountain Rescue Service. Everyone on the team is a volunteer. They’re placed on call as needed, as it isn’t necessary to have active professionals all the time,” concluded Damir Trut.
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