A SPECIALIST firefighter has been sent abroad to help combat a deadly outbreak of diphtheria.

Neil Graham, a member of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s technical rescue team, is among a 40-strong group heading to Bangladesh today.

Mr Graham, 54, from Shoreham, is a member of the UK’s Emergency Medical Team, which also includes doctors and nurses.

He is expecting to go out for three weeks but other West Sussex firefighters may then go out to replace him if needed.

Thousands of lives are at risk from the rapid and deadly outbreak of diphtheria in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

There are 160 new cases being reported every day.

It is home to more than 600,000 Rohingya people.

This is the first deployment of emergency medical team since it was certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016.

It follows a formal request for help from the WHO and the government of Bangladesh.

There are currently not enough staff or beds to manage the outbreak of the deadly airborne virus.

West Sussex set up its technical rescue unit in 2006.

Since then it has supported a number of significant international deployments including missions to Indonesia, Haiti, New Zealand, Japan and Bosnia.

Its most recent overseas mission was to Nepal following a devastating earthquake in 2015, when, again, Mr Graham flew out to help.

West Sussex chief fire officer Gavin Watts said: “Our technical rescue unit is regarded around the world for its specialist skills.

“We wish Neil all the best on this important deployment that we hope will save lives.”