Search team: No miracle finds for British rescuers as they join grim task of finding the dead

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A BRITISH search-and-rescue team got to work in the devastated north-eastern city of Ofunato yesterday, uncovering a number of bodies but finding no survivors.

The team set up its base in a school in nearby Sumita and began sifting through the disaster zone yesterday morning. They cleared a large industrial district and residential area.

The group, made up of 63 UK fire service search-and-rescue specialists, two rescue dogs and a medical support team, are working alongside US counterparts and co-ordinating their operation with locals.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "We are all proud of the UK's search-and-rescue experts, who are doing a great job under tough conditions. They are working alongside Japanese colleagues to give much-needed help and support to that country in its time of dire need."

Some 12 Britons and two New Zealanders from the International Rescue Corps (IRC) are in place to assist in the humanitarian effort. The multi-skilled team will be put to use as Japanese authorities see fit, a spokesman for the IRC said.

International disaster relief charity ShelterBox has also dispatched a team to Sendai, near the epicentre of Friday's quake, where they are assessing the need for emergency shelter.

An initial shipment of 200 of the charity's boxes, which would provide shelter for 2,000 people, is on its way from the UK and a further 5,000 boxes are on stand-by. Each box contains a tent for an extended family, a tool kit, blankets and water purification equipment.

Meanwhile, a Scottish MP has urged the government to provide transport to rescue British citizens who are "stuck" in parts of Japan. Russell Brown, Tory MP for Dumfries and Galloway, raised concerns that a constituent's son, wife and baby were unable to leave a hotel in Sendai, and accused the Foreign Office of "not assisting with transport".

Mr Brown said: "They are in a hotel where a bus turned up this morning and took away a number of European nationals who were fit and healthy, and that includes Irish nationals.

"But the only advice being given by our Foreign Office regrettably is advice. They are not assisting with transport - can something more be done?"

Foreign Office m inister Jeremy Browne defended the government's efforts and said there had been a "hugely comprehensive response" to help British nationals in Japan.

He added: "We are trying to do everything possible in a chaotic and very difficult situation to help British nationals." He promised Mr Brown he would look into the specific case.