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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Korean rescue workers arrive in Turkey after earthquake

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Members of the Korea Disaster Relief Team and military personnel arrive on a KC-330 military tanker aircraft at Gaziantep Airport in southeastern Turkey Wednesday to help with search and rescue operations in the country following a devastating earthquake. [NEWS1]
Members of the Korea Disaster Relief Team and military personnel arrive on a KC-330 military tanker aircraft at Gaziantep Airport in southeastern Turkey Wednesday to help with search and rescue operations in the country following a devastating earthquake. [NEWS1]

A team of 118 Korean disaster relief personnel arrived by a military transport aircraft in Turkey on Wednesday to join in search and rescue operations in the country following a devastating earthquake earlier this week.

The Korean government announced on Tuesday plans to dispatch its Korea Disaster Relief Team (KDRT), send medical supplies and provide an initial $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Turkey.

Later Tuesday night, the Korean Air Force’s KC-330 military tanker transport aircraft departed for Turkey from Incheon International Airport carrying emergency medical supplies and the disaster personnel.

They included some 60 disaster relief professionals from the National Fire Agency and Korea International Cooperation Agency (Koica) and some 50 military personnel.

This is the largest disaster relief team Korea has dispatched overseas in a single day.

The team landed at Gaziantep Airport in southeastern Turkey at 6:57 a.m. local time Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed.

They are expected to join some 65 countries that are sending disaster relief teams to assist ongoing search and rescue operations after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday, killing more than 9,000 people.

The Korean team will operate in various sites affected by the earthquake at the request of the local authorities, in cooperation with the international community and the Turkish government, according to the ministry.

Rescue workers of Korea’s 118-member disaster relief team unload relief supplies from an Air Force KC-330 military tanker aircraft Wednesday at Gaziantep Airport in Turkey Wednesday. [YONHAP]
Rescue workers of Korea’s 118-member disaster relief team unload relief supplies from an Air Force KC-330 military tanker aircraft Wednesday at Gaziantep Airport in Turkey Wednesday. [YONHAP]

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday instructed government officials to swiftly send rescue workers and emergency medical supplies to Turkey, a “brother country,” expressing his condolences to the Turkish people.

Foreign Minister Park Jin held a public-private joint council for overseas emergency relief for Turkey the same afternoon and decided to dispatch the KDRT. Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Hyun-dong was named the head of the emergency relief headquarters.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed the whereabouts of a Korean student who went missing during the earthquake in Hatay province in Turkey on Monday.

The ministry said that the student was reached by his family and transported to a safe area as of Tuesday.

It is still trying to contact one other Korean who visited Hatay at the time of the earthquake.

The ministry said it has received no reports of Korean casualties from the earthquake so far.

“It’s a race against time for rescue teams dispatched to the region to produce results,” Kim Young-hoon, president of the Association of Koreans in Turkey, told the JoongAng Ilbo over the phone Tuesday. “While local temperatures in Turkey range between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius, it actually feels much colder, and people staying outdoors are in dire need of winter gear such as heaters and blankets.”

He said that the “golden time for rescue in a disaster situation is 72 hours, and ultimately, disaster relief teams from each country, including Korea, see it as a ‘fight against time’ to achieve results.”

Following the earthquake, Korea issued a special travel advisory for six provinces in Turkey’s southeastern region, including Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Malatya and Adiyaman.

The Korean government said it plans to offer aid to Syria as soon as international organizations announce the scope of aid the country will need.

Staff at the Korean Red Cross prepare emergency supplies such as blankets in preparation in Suwon, Gyeonggi, on Wednesday, to support relief efforts after a devastating earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria. [YONHAP]
Staff at the Korean Red Cross prepare emergency supplies such as blankets in preparation in Suwon, Gyeonggi, on Wednesday, to support relief efforts after a devastating earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria. [YONHAP]

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]