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Turkey rescue team commander hails successes

Leszek Szymański/PAP

The leader of Poland’s HUSAR rescue team sent to help hunt for survivors of the earthquake in Turkey has told PAP of the emotion felt at rescuing 12 people.

HUSAR (Heavy Urban Search and Rescue) commander Brigadier Grzegorz Borowiec was scheduled to return to Poland with his team on Wednesday afternoon. The group of 76 firefighters, five medics and eight search dogs as well as mountain rescuers, was successful, Borowiec told PAP.

“It’s a success, certainly much greater than we had expected,” Borowiec said. “We didn’t think it would ever be possible to save so many human beings through any of our activities.

“However, 12 people is really a big result that makes a big impression on the rescue world,” he added, going on to say that in terms of the number of survivors rescued, the Polish team was in the top five.

Borowiec explained that chance was an important factor in his team’s success, as they had originally been supposed to go to Adiyaman in southeastern Turkey but eventually went to the nearby town of Besni instead, where many people were trapped under rubble, “so we were able to do a very important thing – rescue these people and help these people in need.”

He said for the first two days, the Polish rescue team was the only one in the town, so residents were counting on them.

Conditions were difficult, he added, particularly due to the cold — with temperatures falling to minus five or six degrees at night — exacerbated by icy mountain winds.

Borowiec said there was great emotion in the team when they found their first survivor on the first night and then more before the following morning, including a family of four.

“But the greatest euphoria during the operation occurred when we pulled the twelfth person out,” he said. “We didn’t have much belief that after several days under the rubble it would be possible to find someone alive.”

As of Wednesday morning, the death toll of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria stood at over 40,000.

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