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Rescue dogs equipped with cameras to search for survivors in western Japan’s rain-hit areas

Kyodo

Rescue dogs tasked with finding survivors in disaster-hit areas of western Japan have a new gadget — a small camera with a built-in microphone that enables handlers to see clearly inside the collapsed houses that only canines can enter.

The high-tech system used by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department was introduced for the first time in the Yanohigashi district of Hiroshima’s Aki Ward, which was hit hard by heavy rains last month.

According to the National Police Agency 225 people have died in the disaster, some of whom were buried under landslides or trapped in collapsed housings.

The dogs have barked to alert rescuers whenever they have discovered survivors. With the new equipment, police officers handling the dogs can get a better understanding of the situation based on images sent from the animal’s camera to their tablet computers.

In addition, the built-in microphones enable disaster victims to talk directly with police officers during the rescue operation.

Two male dogs — Will, a 2-year-old German shepherd, and Arrey, a 7-year-old Labrador retriever — were dispatched to the disaster-stricken areas together with the MPD’s emergency response team. Tokyo police have trained the canines since March this year, drawing on lessons from Belgium where the high-tech system has also been adopted for rescue dogs.

Even with the new gadget Will and Arrey didn’t discover any trapped survivors in collapsed houses this time, but they did confirm that no one had been left behind in the buildings that were destroyed by landslides.

“There are many places in the disaster-hit areas that only dogs can access. We will train the dogs more in the hope of finding and rescuing survivors in the future,” said Katsuo Tsuruta, head of the division in charge of training police dogs at the MPD.