KAHRAMANMARAS, TURKEY — The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers involved in quake rescue efforts in Turkey “are tired” but “morale remains high”.
This was said by Colonel Chew Keng Tok, leader of Operation Lionheart (OLH) contingent to the Singapore media from OLH’s base of operations in Kahramanmaras on Sunday (12 February).
“I must say that we are tired, definitely… We are now gradually going to a rotation. Teams are being split up so that they have adequate rest before they are deployed.”
“The first team that was into ground zero was literally working round the clock, non-stop, for a good 72 hours,”
With the second team arriving on 10 February, the OLH’s base was expanded to accommodate the full 68-member OLH contingent.
With the arrival of the second team of officers from Operation Lionheart, Col Chew said that teams are now being split up to ensure adequate rest before the officers’ deployments.
Rescue efforts focus on locating survivors
Col Chew said the key to their urban search and rescue missions is still to locate life.
“When we are able to that, that means we are able to continue to save lives between the damages and the rubbles.”
He added that the city Kahramanmaras, the epicentre of the quake, was mostly filled with residential buildings with an average height of six storeys.
According to Col Chew, significant progress has been made in the city centre with the help of coordination between the local Turkish authority and the United Nations.
The team is now starting to move beyond the city centre to assess the chances of survival in the rubble. This will be the next step in the team’s efforts to assist with the rescue efforts.
He said the locals in Turkey had shown great warmth and appreciation towards the rescue efforts of the SCDF and other international organizations.
“Even in the midst of their grief and their sadness, they’re very forthcoming and they’re very strong people … and I salute them.”
He said the Singapore team would stay in Turkey as long as the local Turkish authority and the UN coordinator require them.
Local temperature drops to -6 degrees Celsius at night
Col Chew stated that one of the main challenges faced by the Singaporean team is the harsh weather conditions.
The temperature drops to as low as 6 degrees Celsius during the day and even lower to around -6 degrees Celsius at night.
Col Chew believed that the team’s training done in Singapore is “sufficient” to mete out assistance to countries affected by earthquakes.
SCDF prepared five portable power generators, as well as 24 boxes of transportation carriers containing Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) equipment (cutting/breaking/lifting/stabilising equipment), medical supplies, field rations, and tentage to be brought over to Turkey.
To support OLH’s enhanced USAR operations, they brought additional search and rescue equipment, medical supplies, and communications and logistics support equipment.
According to the latest update on SCDF Facebook page, two teams from the OLH contingent were deployed at two different sectors in the city centre over the last 24 hours.
Both teams conducted assessments and identified potential rescue sites located about 13 km from their base.
Each team comprised eight officers from DART, two search specialists with their canines, one paramedic and two support officers.
The SCDF has also sent two psychologists to support the mental well-being of the team, marking the first time psychologists have been included in an Operation Lionheart contingent.
Death toll rise to 34,000
On 6 February, a major 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Turkey and north-western regions of neighbouring Syria as people slept, flattening thousands of structures.
More than 34,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured in the incident as of today (13 February).
In response to the request for humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in Turkey, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) sent an Operation Lionheart (OLH) contingent to assist in the disaster rescue efforts.
SCDF had sent an advance team of 20 SCDF personnel to Kahramanmaraş to begin search and rescue operations on 8 February.
Working together with the local and Spanish rescue teams, a boy was rescued on 9 February from a bedroom in the collapsed building.
The team also successfully aided in the rescue of another man who was trapped in a semi-collapsed building on Thursday.