Portuguese team prepares to leave Turkey; due to arrive home this Saturday
Portuguese team prepares to leave Turkey; due to arrive home this Saturday

Mission accomplished: earthquake recovery team returns from Turkey

“Lives saved, smiles rescued, carrying Turkey in our hearts”

The 52-strong team of Portuguese search and rescue professionals has arrived back today from its mission in Turkey.

“Lives saved, smiles rescued and carrying Turkey in our hearts”, was the message relayed over social media as the team prepared to leave Antakya, in the Hatay region, after eight full days on the ground.

The ‘Força Operacional Conjunta’ (combined operational force) dug a child out of the rubble; saved the life of a golden retriever, and “recovered the smiles of children”.

As Lusa explained in a poignant report last week, it wasn’t all about ‘rescuing’: much more was about handling, with great sensitivity and respect, the very worst day in people’s lives.

Led by commander José Guilherme, the force included members of the national authority for emergency and civil protection, the GNR, the Sapper firefighters of Lisbon and INEM (medical emergency institute). The team left for Turkey on February 8 as part of international assistance triggered by the EU’s mechanism of protection following the 7.8 earthquake that hit the region on Monday February 6, killing over 40,000 people.

And as one operational force returns home, another is still firefighting in central Chile, where devastating fires saw the country request international support over a week ago. Since then the 144 specialised Portuguese firefighters, backed by 80 from France and 42 from Spain have proved decisive in combat efforts; the Portuguese force being particularly praised for making all the difference in a fire last Wednesday in the city of Concepción, on the coast.

Portuguese firefighters have bolstered Chilean efforts to control raging forest fires. Image: Facebook page of EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid