Türkiye - Syria Earthquake: How MFRS specialist teams helped

Firefighters from MFRS were among those deployed to the Republic of Türkiye this month to assist with search and rescue operations following the devastating earthquakes.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred on Monday 6th February in south eastern Türkiye at around 4.15am local time.

A 77-strong International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) team was deployed the next day, made up of firefighters and staff from 14 fire and rescue services. The team also included medics, a structural engineer and a vet.

Members of UK ISAR from Merseyside in TurkeyWatch Manager Keith Findlay, Crew Manager Niamh Darcy, Firefighter Alex Ramoutar and Firefighter David Searle were among those providing specialist technical support and expertise where it was needed most. WM Nigel Young  - a former member of SRT who has been seconded to UKISAR for the last three years - completed the team alongside Vesper, one of four fire and rescue search dogs deployed.            

Following their arrival, the team established its base of operations in Hatay and began surveying buildings for live casualties.

The team was given a large sector close to the river that had so far been untouched by other international teams.

They faced a number of challenges - one being that locals, desperate to help and find their loved ones, were actually hindering efforts, with their scent interfering and making the work of Vesper and the other search and rescue dogs all the more difficult.

ISAR technician and dog handler, Niamh said: "The enormity and scale of the disaster was a massive challenge.

"Once we translated with empathy that we needed space, their scent was removed, allowing Vesper to work and identify live casualties. This information disseminated quickly amongst locals who then supported our search efforts - their kindness offering us their water and food was humbling."

The team deployed through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) following a request for assistance from the Republic of Türkiye, after it announced its highest level of state emergency.

Any UKISAR team deployed is self-sufficient upon arrival and provides its own food, water, shelter, sanitation, communications and all necessary equipment to undertake search and rescue operations for up to 14 days.

This is to ensure no additional burden is placed upon a country already suffering demands on its resources following a sudden onset disaster.

During their operation, the team searched hundreds of buildings, located and rescued a number of survivors – reuniting people in their darkest hour.

They also worked with countless other international search and rescue teams to ensure as many people as possible were located, getting the right kit and equipment to ensure people had the best chance of survival.

Footage taken during their deployment showed the grueling conditions they worked under, offering hope to families as people were rescued from the rubble.

One intricate and complex rescue took more than 20 hours to complete, while another saw three members of the same family reunited.

Niamh added: "The rescues that UKISAR personnel carried out are a credit to us all - each of us played an integral part in each one. The teamwork and positive attitudes were only outshone by the hope, appreciation and kindness of the Turkish people."

Deployed for more than a week, the team returned home on 15th February, landing at Stansted airport to a salute from fire engines, flowers and a reception which included a representative from the Turkish consulate and the FCDO.

Since their return, members of the MFRS team have appeared on BBC Breakfast and spoken to the Liverpool Echo about their experience.

Well done team - we are incredibly proud of you!