S. Korea sends 118-member rescue team to quake-hit Turkey, offering $5 million in aid

By Park Yoon-bae Posted : February 8, 2023, 15:48 Updated : February 8, 2023, 23:19

South Korean rescue workers arrive at an airport in Turkey's south-central province of Gaziantep on February 8. Korea sent a 118-member search and rescue team to save people trapped under the debris of collapsed buildings in the quake-hit country. [Yonhap]

SEOUL -- South Korea's 118-member search and rescue team arrived at an airport in Turkey's south-central province of Gaziantep on February 8 to help save people trapped under the debris of collapsed buildings in the earthquake-devastated country.
The arrival came after the team left for Turkey aboard a KC-330 military transport airplane on February 7, a day after the country was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. The rescue workers are soon to be deployed to hard-hit urban centers.
The Korean government has also promised to offer $5 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to Turkey to cope with the natural disaster. In addition, it plans to deliver medical supplies to the country to help people injured by the earthquake.
The quake, one of the strongest to strike the region in more than 100 year, has so far killed more than 10,000 people and injured around 30,000 in Turkey and Syria. The epicenter was 23 kilometers east of Nurdagi in Turkey's Gaziantep province.
According to media reports, the quake destroyed thousands of homes and other buildings, leaving a large number of people homeless and trapping untold numbers under debris in freezing temperatures.

Korean Red Cross workers assort relief supplies, which will be sent to Turkey and Syria to help quake-stricken people, in their office in Suwon, south of Seoul, February 8. [Yonhap]

The Korean rescue team consists of firefighters, soldiers, and officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The team held a ceremony for the launch of its humanitarian mission at Incheon International Airport before its departure on February 7.
The ceremony was attended by Park Yong-min, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, and Turkish Ambassador to Korea Murat Tamer.
Earlier in the day, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration decided to dispatch the team to Turkey after Foreign Minister Park Jin held an interagency meeting to discuss how to assist the quake-ravaged country.
The rescue team is the biggest-ever to be sent overseas by South Korea. It is also reportedly larger than that of some European countries composed of between 60 and 80 workers.
"It is very natural for us to help Turkey, a brother country," President Yoon said during a Cabinet meeting, reminding that Turkey sent its troops to South Korea to defend freedom and democracy during the 1950-53 Korean War. He urged all government ministries to cooperate to help the country get out of the natural disaster as soon as possible.
The dispatch decision came after the Turkish government officially requested assistance from South Korea. The Yoon administration already sent a three-member advance team to Turkey to survey the emergency situation there.

A woman hugs a man as rescuers continue to search in the rubble in the aftermath of an earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 8. [Reuters-Yonhap]

Catherine Smallwood, a senior emergency officer for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), warned that the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey and Syria could rise further -- possibly to 20,000.
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