Search and rescue team from Northern Ireland heads to Turkey

COUNTY DOWN, Northern Ireland: A rescue team from Northern Ireland is preparing to be airlifted to Turkey to assist in the search for victims in last week’s deadly earthquake.

Over 21,000 are believed dead in Turkey and Syria.

Ryan Gray, from the K9 Search and Rescue NI charity, said his group has been on stand-by since receiving word of the earthquake and only received permission to help from the Turkish government on February 9.

The K9 Search and Rescue NI charity is self-funded and has been operating for five years. They have assisted during disasters in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, along with the service station explosion in Creeslough, Co Donegal in 2022.

The Northern Irish rescue team includes eight dogs and 21 workers.

"This is what we train for. The dogs we are sending are Urban Search and Rescue dogs and specialize in detecting people in collapsed building structures," said Gray, as quoted by RTE.

"We’ve trained in California, at the UK fire service college, and due to train in Kosovo next month. We’re a team that is hungry to learn from everyone, and we like to think we’re one of the most professional search and rescue dog teams in the UK."

Gray said that Max and Delta, both black labradors who assisted in the search effort in Creeslough, will accompany the group in Turkey.

"It’s fantastic what the dogs can do, I have no doubt when we go out there that we’ll be making a very positive difference," added Gray.

"We will fly to Turkey with the dogs, but really have no idea of the scale of devastation we will face upon arrival.We will get straight to work, knowing this search and rescue mission is time sensitive and every minute that passes can be the difference between life and death," added Gray.

Gray noted that the charity is self funded, and encouraged local people to support their work.