SAfrica emergency service prepares for World Cup

BY foxsports • March 24, 2010

The South African emergency response team for Johannesburg says it will provide complete services at the World Cup.

Emergency Management Services divisional chief Sean Knoetze told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they had prepared for biological and chemical incidents, stadium collapses, aircraft crashes and flooding during the monthlong tournament.

``We never know what to expect,'' Knoetze said. ``The key point is we have prepared ourselves for all sorts of incidents ... we would obviously be ready for any biological or chemical incident.''

Knoetze said the access problems that contributed to South Africa's biggest sporting disaster, when 43 people died in a crush at a soccer game at Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium in 2001, have been rectified.

Ellis Park will host seven games at the World Cup, including a quarterfinal.

Nearly 10 years ago, people were dying on the side of the field during the game between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, the country's best-known teams. Unaware, the players carried on the match as emergency services struggled to gain access to the field.

``We have taken the necessary steps to prevent a reoccurrence of the access problems we faced,'' said Knoetze, who worked as a firefighter at the 2001 incident.

Rescuers extracted a man from the Sterkfontein Caves, north west of Johannesburg, as part of a confined spaces training operation. Knoetze said his team had performed 20 of these simulation exercises specifically for the World Cup. Six more are planned before the kickoff on June 11.

``The World Cup presents special risks to us, we do understand that,'' he said. ``But it will be an event to indicate our capability and our ability to address whatever circumstances or situations the World Cup can throw at us.

``Although this might be a developing country, I can assure you our emergency services are not developing. We have proven ourselves internationally to be very competitive at that level.''