The Los Angeles County Fire Department has deployed some of its best to Turkey and Syria to provide search and rescue support after a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit early Monday, killing nearly 8,000 people so far. Deployed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the team is one of two in the country specially trained to respond to urban disasters at home and abroad.
The 78-member team was airborne 24 hours after the earthquake hit near the border of Turkey and Syria. A second team, based in Fairfax, Virginia, has also been deployed. The two teams are highly trained for these types of urban disaster situations and have international experience in Japan, Mexico, and Nepal, the New York Times reports.
The teams include “rescue specialists, physicians, canine search teams, and structural engineers,” Interim chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Anthony Marrone said in a press conference as the teams prepared to deploy.
“They are going to put their lives on the line, make no doubt about it. I pray for their safety and their return and the fact that they can actually make an impactful difference for the people that are suffering.”
Morrone said the last time the team was deployed to an earthquake of this magnitude was to Mexico City in 2017.
They are expected to arrive in Adana, Turkey on Wednesday, a spokesperson from USAID told LAMag. They will be bringing “170,000 pounds of specialized tools and equipment—including hydraulic concrete breaking equipment, saws, torches, and drills.”
Rescue workers have been frantically searching for survivors after the massive quake was reported in southeast Turkey. An aftershock with a magnitude of 7.5 struck nine hours later. At least 7,926 people have died as of Tuesday night, and thousands of buildings have collapsed—some as far away as 200 miles from the epicenter.
“The quake was the worst to hit the region in nearly a century. Homes and entire communities have been wiped out,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power said in a statement. “Thousands of people have already lost their lives, and many more remain trapped in the rubble.”
The international response has been swift, with other nations joining the United States in sending support to the region. A group of countries from the European Union as well as Britain, India, and Israel have or are planning to send search and rescue teams, the Times reports. In total, Turkey has said that 70 nations have pledged their support.
Despite invasion by Russia, Ukraine’s foreign minister also tweeted that the embattled nation is ready to send their best as well.
Ukraine stands ready to send a large group of rescue workers to Türkiye to assist crisis response. We are working closely with the Turkish side to coordinate their deployment.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) February 6, 2023
Syria, already devastated by civil war, is said to have received fewer offers of help, the Times reports. The country blames sanctions implemented by the U.S. and the European Union against President Bashar al-Assad. The only boarding crossing between Turkey and Syria was badly damaged by the earthquake and is closed.
USAID, didn’t specifically clarify that firefighters will also be entering Syria but confirmed that “USAID is continuing to reach those directly affected by these recent earthquakes through our humanitarian partners on the ground,” a spokesperson said.
The L.A. firefighters are expected to deploy for two weeks, according to Marrone, with hopes that they will be able to find survivors under the rubble.
“These men and women and these dogs of the L.A. County Fire Department are really going to go place themselves in harm’s way to save lives, to dig people out, and to help with the recovery,” Marrone said. “It’s going to be a very dangerous mission. They’re prepared. They’re trained.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign for our newsletters today