Estonian international rescue team returns from Turkey

The EST-USAR team at Tallinn Airport before departure.
The EST-USAR team at Tallinn Airport before departure. Source: Rescue Board

A 35-member rescue team returned to Estonia on Tuesday after assisting in the international aid effort to help Turkey after a major earthquake last week.

The EST-USAR team was dispatched immediately after last Monday's 7.8 magnitude quake and several aftershocks, which have so far left more than 30,000 people dead, via the European Union's solidarity mechanism.

They worked in 22 locations in Hatay province in southern Turkey, one of the worst affected regions, and looked for people trapped under the rubble of 50 buildings. They found no live survivors.

Minister of Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE) thanked the team on their arrival to Tallinn and said their knowledge and skills can be relied upon in the future.

Contributing to missions also shows Estonia is a credible ally, he said.

The EST-USAR team at searching for survivors under the rubble in Turkey. Source: Rescue Board

"Supporting Turkey gives us confidence that if Estonia should ask for help in the future within the framework of the European Union's population protection mechanism, we will have supportive allies," he said.

The ministry and Rescue Board will now work together to simplify processes going forward.

"We need to think about simplifying the procedural processes so that the international rescue team can be dispatched faster. When rescuing people from the rubble, time is the most important thing," said Kuno Tammearu, director general of the Rescue Board.

President Alar Karis also met with the team when they returned to Tallinn and thanked them for their work.

"It is a clear example of how we must support each other when tragedies happen. My thoughts are with all the brave rescue workers who help to save lives," he wrote.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Ismaa) also welcomed the team. The ministry has allocated €400,000 for rescue and medical aid.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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