Estonian rescue team heading to Turkey hopes to find survivors under rubble

Equipment waiting to be sent to Turkey.
Equipment waiting to be sent to Turkey. Source: ERR

Estonia's Turkey-bound rescue team hopes to find survivors amongst the rubble after Monday's huge earthquake. So far, there have been over 11,000 confirmed deaths.

Estonia reacted quickly to the natural disaster pledging €400,000 in aid, 14 tons of equipment and a team of more than 40 people to provide medical and rescue support.

"This team is on a mission to rescue people from the rubble, and, of course, rescuing people from the rubble is most effective in the first few hours. People can be found alive for up to five days under the rubble," Tauno Suurkivi, deputy general director of the Rescue Board, told Wednesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Estonia's group initially plans to go to Turkey for a week, but this could be extended. The team will take equipment to help find people trapped under the collapsed buildings. 

"With our modern devices, be it acoustic devices, cameras or other electronic tools, we can find people alive in the rubble and then map them. And the second set of tools is then [used] to retrieve these mapped live people from the rubble," Suurkivi said.

Turkish and Estonian flags. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Northern Rescue Center's Gert Teder, who has participated in similar operations before, said the situation is similar to Pakistan's 2005 earthquake. The epicenter was close to the surface causing widespread destruction.

Turkish builders often use bricks that leave no space when they collapse, unlike Estonia's panel houses, he said.

"To survive under rubble, you need gaps. It's easier to survive under prefabricated housing than under a brick building," Teder said.

He said the chances of finding survivors after several days are slim, but it is still necessary to send international rescue teams.

"A team from a foreign country has one very big advantage over the locals - there is no emotional connection. That is to say, the decisions, the actions can be much more rational, there is no emotion involved and there is also the possibility to say things that the locals know but do not want to say," said Teder.

Gert Teder Source: ERR

Rescue team leader Toomas Kääparin said the group will find out exactly where in Hatay province they will be assigned on Wednesday evening.

He said it is normal that things do not run according to schedule.

"The reasons why things are moving so slowly here are perfectly understandable. This is a major event for a country like Turkey. There are collapsed buildings, completely destroyed buildings, there is no electricity in the area, people are afraid to go into their homes, they are outside, they are making bonfires. Seeing the situation here, some of the situations that seemed over the top during [training] exercises are not really the case, it's just the way it is," Kääparin said.

Monday's earthquake struck close to the Turkish-Syrian border and measured over 7 on the richer scale. Turkey requested international assistance after the disaster.

Estonia planned to send a 44-strong team, including 10 medics from the Health Board, in cooperation with the interior and foreign ministries and the Rescue Board. But fewer people have initially been been sent due to procedural complications.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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