ISTANBUL: As search and rescue teams continue to seek out survivors among the rubble in the aftermath of the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria, rescue dogs from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have emerged as key members of these operations.
These trained canines and their keen sense of smell are able to work in tandem with the human members of the rescue teams and access areas that humanitarian aid officers find difficult to reach.
Their senses are especially useful in the two countries, where hundreds of buildings have collapsed due to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck last Monday, leaving more than 37,000 dead and thousands more missing so far.
Malaysia’s tracker dogs Denti and Frankie have been sent on their first mission abroad, less than two months after their high-profile search and rescue job during the landslide at Batang Kali near Genting Highlands that killed 31 campers.
Both Denti, a Labrador retriever, and English springer spaniel Frankie were put on an 11-hour flight to Istanbul, before being dispatched to southern Turkiye for their mission to locate casualties of the earthquake.
Both will work in 12-hour shifts.
On Saturday, they discovered and rescued five family members who had been trapped under the rubble of a residential building for six days, Bernama reported.
A Malaysian tactical operations official said the dogs were trained to find victims, alive or dead.
They were accompanied by their handlers, said unit chief Donny Chap.
The two canines, who received “Hero Malaysia” medals following their efforts during December’s landslide, had been given sufficient rest before their latest deployment.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force team sent four canines along with their 68-man Operation Lionheart contingent to the south-eastern Turkyish town of Kahramanmaras, near the quake’s epicentre.
The dogs, including two Labrador retrievers Frenchy and Rizzo, have been deployed to sniff out areas that could become potential rescue sites, helping the teams assess the need to use search equipment to home in on victim locations, said the SCDF on Facebook.
Thailand’s search and rescue team in Turkiye, including its two sniffer dogs Sierra and Sahara, has also drawn attention on social media, according to Thai daily The Nation.
The female golden retrievers in the team from the country’s urban search and rescue team have raised awareness of the role sniffer dogs play in these missions.
Photos of seven-year-old Sierra and six-year-old Sahara have been shared widely on social media, along with an outpouring of concern for those affected by the catastrophe.
Both dogs had passed training certified by the International Rescue Dog Organisation and have been tasked to search for earthquake victims in the rubble.
The Thai team started work on Saturday in Hatay, a southern Turkyish province on the Mediterranean coast that borders Syria, where wintry conditions have seen temperatures plunge to 2ºC.
Mexico on Monday paid tribute to its military rescue dog that died while searching for survivors buried under the rubble of the earthquake in Turkiye.
Defence Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval announced the death of the German shepherd called Proteo at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily news conference.
“You accomplished your mission … thank you for your heroic work,” the military said on Twitter.
Proteo was one of more than a dozen rescue dogs dispatched by Mexico along with 130 military personnel on its humanitarian mission to Turkiye and Syria.
“You were always a strong, hard-working dog who never gave up. I will always remember you,” one rescuer who served alongside Proteo said in a video. — The Straits Times/ANN/AFP