The Dutch rescue team helping to search for survivors of last Monday’s devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria has pulled 12 people from the rubble since it arrived last week.
USAR Team leader Job Kramer told Dutch radio the number of rescues is ‘above expectations’. ‘We have never saved so many people after an earthquake,’ he said. The team of 65 people and eight dogs are returning to the Netherlands later this week.
The death toll in the region has now topped 35,000, but it is unclear how many people have died in Syria, where the rescue effort has been hampered by the civil war.
Other privately-run teams with dogs have now reached the region from Netherlands. ‘Even though the chance of finding survivors is now very low, it is important that those who are missing are found, so their loved ones can say goodbye,’ a spokesman from dog rescue foundation RHWW told NOS.
In total, 30 people and 18 dogs from the Netherlands have now arrived in the Hatay region in the east of Turkey to replace the USAR.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands has not yet said if it will give three-month visas to family members of those affected by the quake, so they can come to the Netherlands on a temporary basis.
Germany and Belgium have already announced plans to hand out visas, but Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra told television programme WNL op Zondag that it is ‘an illusion’ to think the problems in Turkey and Syria can be solved in a couple of months.
Hoestra said he first wanted to explore ‘all the side avenues’, and determine exactly what the Germany and Belgium are doing, before taking any decisions.
The IND immigration service said last week that it would soften the return trip rules for some Syrian and Turkish nationals in the Netherlands to make it possible for them to visit family in the affected areas.
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