UK sends rescue specialists to Turkey to help with earthquake rescue effort

British search and rescue team will assist Turkish authorities as they try to save as many people as possible

Collapsed buildings in Kahramanmaras, Turkey. Reuters
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The UK has sent a team of search-and-rescue specialists to Turkey to help the relief effort following the earthquake which has claimed thousands of lives.

No Britons have been reported dead after the quake that has devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, but he acknowledged it was too early to say whether that would remain the case as the full picture emerges.

Following the powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake there were a series of aftershocks and thousands of people were killed, and the authorities fear the death toll will rise as the search for survivors continues.

Mr Cleverly said the impact of the quakes was “on a scale that we have not seen for quite some time”.

The UK is sending a team of 76 search-and-rescue specialists, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and four specially trained dogs, to Turkey, with a flight scheduled to leave Birmingham on Monday night.

They “should be on the ground shortly to give the Turkish authorities the help that they need to try to save as many lives as possible”, he said.

“With an earthquake of this magnitude we sadly have already seen many thousands of people die,” Mr Cleverly said.

“We don’t know the full extent of the injuries or fatalities and sadly they are likely to grow over the coming days.

“At this stage we aren’t aware of any British fatalities but of course it’s far too early for us to say that won’t be the case.”

Drone footage shows scale of destruction in Turkey after deadly earthquake - video

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “My thoughts are with the people of Turkiye [Turkey] and Syria this morning, particularly with those first responders working so valiantly to save those trapped by the earthquake.

“The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”

In Syria, the UK has for many years provided support to the White Helmets rescue team, which has worked to save lives during the bloody civil war in the country.

Although the area of Turkey which has suffered the highest degree of damage does not receive a large number of British visitors, the Foreign Office has been in contact with UK humanitarian workers in the affected areas and is ready to provide support to any Britons caught up in the disaster.

Hundreds of buildings have collapsed. Many residents expected to have been asleep at the time of the pre-dawn earthquake.

The quake, which was centred on Turkey’s south-eastern province of Kahramanmaras, and its aftershocks were felt as far away as Cairo and Beirut, and in Greenland and Denmark.

Rescue workers and residents in several cities searched for survivors, working through tangles of metal and giant piles of concrete.

Syria earthquake survivor tells his story - video

A hospital in Turkey collapsed and patients, including newborn babies, were evacuated from a handful of centres in Syria.

In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home had collapsed.

Further east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once a block of flats.

The quake hit a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria and the refugee crisis the conflict created.

“The British embassy in Ankara is in close contact with the Turkish authorities to understand how we can best support those on the ground," said Jill Morris, the British ambassador-designate to Turkey.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the earthquakes today. We pay tribute to the brave Turkish first responders working to save lives.”

UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer called the earthquake a “tragedy” as he praised the “brave” search and rescue teams working “to try and save as many people as they can”.

The British Red Cross on Monday launched an emergency fundraising appeal to support the response and get aid to those who need it in Syria and Turkey.

European rescue teams head to Turkey and Syria - in pictures

Updated: February 07, 2023, 9:16 AM