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Performing international humanitarian missions – command from heart

Performing international humanitarian missions – command from heart With a high sense of mutual support, Vietnam has for the first time in history sent its military and public security search and rescue forces to earthquake-torn Turkey. The Middle Eastern country is far from Vietnam and has totally different weather and geographic conditions. The aim of the forces was to conduct disaster relief activities. Completing their missions, the teams have received recognition and high evaluation from the host country and their peers from other countries.

Concluding their 10-day operations in Hatay province, one of the localities that was hardest hit by the earthquake that shook Turkey on February 6, the 24-member rescue team from the Ministry of Public Security arrived home on February 19.

During their stay, the team was assigned to carry out search and rescue operations in tough areas in which signs of survivors were expected. Applying effective professional measures and flexible tactics, supported by search and rescue equipment, the team completed their mission at three points following Turkey’s request. The team rescued one survivor and brought 14 bodies out of the debris and handed over them to medical agencies.

The team also handed over nearly 2 tonnes of medical equipment from the Ministry of Public Security to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey (AFAD), while visiting and presenting gifts to local residents affected by the disaster, including some Vietnamese families. Vietnamese public security officers also supported local people in making things that help them survive the hard living conditions such as field stoves.

Speaking at a ceremony to welcome the team home, Deputy Ambassador of Turkey in Vietnam Devletsah Yayan highly appreciated the team for braving hardships and difficulties to participate in the search and rescue work in areas hard hit by the massive quake.

“Right from February 6 when the earthquake hit, we received the offer from the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security to assist our country. Although the conditions in the earthquake-hit areas were extremely tough, the ministry still sent their best men there to help,” the Turkish diplomat said.

Following the Ministry of Public Security’s team, the search and rescue force from the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) also arrived in Antakya, the capital city of Hatay province on February 13 night to search for victims buried in debris.

Right after their arrival, the team coordinated with their local and international peers to immediately perform search and rescue activities.

During the deployment period from February 13-22, the VPA force sought victims in 31 locations in Antakya, locating 15 points with victims, including two with signs of survivors. The force handed over 28 bodies of victims to the local rescue force.

At the same time, the VPA force coordinated with their peers from Bahrain and Mexico to discover three locations in which 10 victims were buried, while helping three households to find stable shelters. Military doctors of the force provided medical services and treatment to seven patients from the rescue forces of other countries and one local person.

On February 21, the VPA force presented nearly 25 tonnes of goods, including military ration, rice, milk, medical equipment, and many other necessities from the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence to Turkey to assist the country in overcoming the disaster's consequences.

Levent Cetin, a resident of Gorentas village in Hatay province, expressed his delight to receive the gifts from Vietnam, which are of great help to his family and others who are staying in temporary tents in vacant areas and cannot return home to collect their belongings because of high risks.

Amid a shortage of everything from food and drink to shelter from the rain and cold, the shipments of food, sleeping bags, blankets, and tents that Vietnam sent to Turkey were extremely meaningful to the needy in the locality that was torn by the earthquake. Cetin said he will bring relief supplies to share with other families and children in his village.

Ambassador Hakan Cakil, a representative of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hatay, expressed deep gratitude to the VPA, underlining that the supplies will help Turkish people overcome losses and difficulties. The medical equipment provided by the Vietnamese side will be promptly delivered to hospitals and local medical facilities to serve patients, he said.

Coming to thank foreign support and search and rescue delegations and teams, Cakil said he was moved to know that the Vietnamese soldiers share parts of their own food with local people of Turkey. He underscored that Turkey always wants to promote its relationship with Vietnam in all fields, and the practical assistance that Vietnamese teams have given to Turkey during this hard time is one of the motivations for the reinforcement and development of the bilateral ties.

The determination, efforts, and actions of the Vietnamese teams have not only brought trust and hope to local residents to find their family members in the rubble again, but also received high evaluation from the rescue teams from other countries.

Anadolu, a local news agency reported that Abuzer Baran Bakır, a 17-year-old boy who was stuck for days in the rubble, was rescued by the Vietnamese search and rescue force with the support of specialised equipment and sniffer dogs. According to the news agency, local people of Turkey put their right hands on their left chests to show their affection and gratitude to the rescuers from faraway Vietnam.

On February 20, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan came to Antakya to thank all international disaster relief forces, including those from Vietnam for helping Turkey in seeking victims of the historical earthquake and supporting affected people in this tragic moment.

Meeting Maj. Gen. Pham Van Ty, Deputy Chief of the Office of the National Committee for Incident and Disaster Response Search and Rescue, and Deputy Director of the VPA's Department of Search and Rescue, who led the Vietnamese VPA team, President Erdogan thanked the Vietnamese forces for their timely support and tireless efforts in search and rescue operations following the devastating earthquake.

Traveling millions of miles following the command from their hearts, officers from the Vietnamese people’s armed forces entered the centre of the Turkey earthquake in the hope of making their contributions to victim search and rescue activities despite danger and hardships.

Commenting on Vietnam’s contributions to the humanitarian operations, Palestinian Ambassador Saadi Salama, head of the diplomatic corps in Vietnam, affirmed that the presence of the Vietnamese soldiers in Turkey reflected a high sense of responsibility for international humanitarian missions.

“It demonstrates Vietnamese people’s sentiments to people around the world, as well as their commitment to working together for friendship and cooperation for a bright future not only for Vietnamese people but for all,” the diplomat stressed./