SCDF sends 20-man team to aid in Turkey earthquake rescue efforts; Red Cross pledges over $132k

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Turkey and Syria on Monday, killing more than 4,300 people. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE – A 20-man team from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has headed to Turkey to help with rescue efforts after a massive earthquake hit the country and neighbouring Syria on Monday.

The Operation Lionheart contingent, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Lok Wee Keong, commander of SCDF’s elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart), departed for Adana in Turkey at 2.05am.

The team comprises 14 Dart rescuers, four paramedic specialists and a full-time national serviceman doctor, said SCDF in a Facebook post at 12.38am on Wednesday.

The team was at the SCDF headquarters in Ubi on Tuesday morning to begin their pre-departure briefing and preparation.

They are carrying a slew of portable urban search and rescue (Usar) equipment – such as cutting, breaking and lifting equipment – life detection devices and fibre-optic scopes. This will allow the team to be quickly deployed to affected areas for Usar operations.

On Tuesday evening, His Excellency Mehmet Burçin Gonenli, Turkish Ambassador to Singapore, visited the SCDF headquarters and met up with the Operation Lionheart contingent to express his gratitude and appreciation to the team.

Minister of State for Home Affairs Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim and SCDF commissioner Eric Yap were at the airport to send the team off.

“We would like to thank Singapore Airlines for facilitating the flight arrangements on short notice. We wish our (Operation Lionheart) contingent a safe and successful mission,” said SCDF.

The team that left for Turkey on Tuesday was an advance contingent. The Straits Times understands that a second and larger team with more personnel and equipment is preparing to be deployed to Turkey.

SCDF first said on Tuesday around 4.30pm that the Operation Lionheart contingent will be deployed in 24 hours.

This is the second time in three months that SCDF has sent the Dart to aid in rescue efforts. In November 2022, a 16-member team left for Australia to assist after heavy storms caused flooding in the south-eastern state of New South Wales.

The deployment of Dart to Turkey comes after the Singapore Red Cross pledged US$100,000 (S$132,600) in humanitarian aid to support relief efforts for those affected by the earthquake.

Each of its sister organisations, the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, will receive US$50,000.

The magnitude-7.8 earthquake left more than 5,100 dead in Turkey and the north-western regions of its neighbour Syria. Entire apartment blocks toppled, hospitals were wrecked and thousands of people were left injured or homeless.

Rescue efforts and the search for survivors were hampered by the freezing winter weather as many people remain trapped under rubble. The death toll is expected to rise.

The Singapore Red Cross said on Tuesday that it will be launching a fund-raising appeal to support recovery operations.

Mr Benjamin William, secretary-general and chief executive of the Singapore Red Cross, said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of lives and injuries, as well as damage to property and livelihoods, arising from the devastating disaster, and are committed to support the emergency relief and recovery operations.”

He said the Singapore Red Cross will continue to assess the situation with its sister national societies in the two countries and stands ready to further support the relief efforts, including possibly deploying responders.

“We hope the people of Singapore will support our fund-raising appeal, to bring hope to and help the affected communities in Turkey and Syria,” said Mr William.

The organisation has also activated its Restoring Family Links service to assist Singapore residents who need to contact or locate their immediate family members in the affected countries.

The Turkish Red Crescent has deployed teams to 10 provinces in the southern and south-eastern regions of the country affected by the earthquake.

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The teams are taking food and basic aid items such as tents and blankets to the disaster zones. They are also providing psychological support, distributing hot meals and sending their national stock of blood and plasma to the affected regions.

In Syria, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is supporting search and rescue operations, providing first aid, performing emergency medical evacuations, and transporting injured individuals to hospitals.

Separately, President Halimah Yacob expressed her condolences to the people of Turkey in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

“This is truly a difficult moment. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Turkey during this challenging time,” she said.

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