Gallery: Island of Ruhnu gets long-awaited Rescue Board station

On Thursday, a facility was opened on the island of Ruhnu which will store equipment to be used by first responders, both on land and sea, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reports.

Ruhnu, area just under 12 square kilometers, permanent population 136, lies in the middle of the Gulf of Riga and is Estonia's smallest municipality.

The island has one permanent, professional first responder, while close to a quarter of residents are volunteers in that area, where needed.

This makes the opening of the new joint Päästeamet (Rescue Board) and Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) building on the island (see gallery) all the more resonant.

As the islanders themselves point out, while it may be a small step for the Estonian state as a whole, it is the proverbial giant leap for the island itself.

Heiki Kukk, the one full-time first responder on Ruhnu, told AK that: "For us, it's almost as if we are figuratively entering the 20th century [sic] from the 17th century. It is a major step forward. Previously, we had used a wooden stove for heat, and had just the one ceiling lamp, so there is no comparison with the new facility."

The new facility boasts a gym and sauna, among other features.

"We have 11 emergency personnel, all of whom are qualified as first responders at sea, too, plus three more who are coastguard only, not first responders on land," he went on.

The event was marked by the arrival of dignitaries, whose vessel was escorted by two rescue board rigid inflatables; these were welcomed by a small brass band and a larger crowd of islanders.

Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE), present at the grand opening, stated said the building means represents a message from the state that it supports them and that the state exists for small islands like Ruhnu, not vice versa.

He said:  "This building symbolizes all of that very well. It's not just a rescue house or a place that the volunteer sea rescue operates out of, or the police or defense league simply make use of."

"It's actually a community meeting place and probably a lot of other things will start from this building in the future," said Läänemets.

The facility cost two-and-a-half million euros to construct; Ruhnu was one of the last of Estonia's smaller islands to have obtained a new first responder building of this kind.

Half-a-dozen emergency calls have been made from Ruhnu over the past two-and-a-half years, AK reported.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Margus Muld.

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