Meet India’s disaster responders who rescued pets in quake-hit Turkey

Meet India’s disaster responders who rescued pets in quake-hit Turkey

Meet India’s disaster responders who rescued pets in quake-hit Turkey

Perihaan Atakan of Turkey couldn’t stop crying when she was reunited with her injured cat Laurenz almost two weeks after a deadly earthquake shook her world. It was a sign of hope for her, as it was for thousands of people living in relief camps who were able to reunite with their beloved pets following the devastating earthquake that struck Turkey on 6 February.

Disaster responders from Humane Society International rescued 1,500 such animals from the rubble. The organisation works for animal protection and reached Turkey last month. The team with representation from different countries across the world also included three members from India, who recently returned after providing emergency aid.

“It was heart-wrenching to see the scale of the disaster. Most of the buildings had collapsed. There were people who had lost everything but they were still looking out for their pets. Amid all the human suffering, we could see people frantically searching for their lost pets in the debris,” said 25-year-old Jaihari AK, a member of the rescue team.

The wildlife and disaster response team of Sumanth Bindumadhav, Dr Hemanth Byatroy, and Jaihari AK spent almost 10 days looking for injured animals, providing them medical aid, and helping them reunite with their families. Despite the chilling cold, they would start out early in the morning, armed with protective gear to search for the animals. They helped set up clinics and shelter homes.

“The locals really love their pets. They are like family to them. Every day we would be swamped by people, requesting us to search for their pets. We would collect pictures of these animals and, if possible, audio recordings of their parents calling them to help in the rescue. Over 70% of pets were cats,” Sumanth told News18. “Some of them smiled for the first time in weeks, when we brought their pets back to them.”

Deadly disasters like earthquakes can leave people in a state of shock but it is equally hard for animals who cannot fathom the tragedy that has struck them. Most of these animals were not only injured and dehydrated, but petrified.

“It can get very challenging to come near them, so you need patience and adequate training to handle them in such situations,” he said.

The team members who have been on such rescue missions before said volunteers had to be duly trained and vaccinated before starting off their journeys.

The team also helped rescue a Dogo Argentino (a dog breed) from a metal factory that had collapsed in the earthquake. The heavy metal fell on the dog leading to a bad wound all over his face, such that it could barely open its eyes. The team rescued the dog, brought it to the clinic for medical treatment and finally reunited it with its family.

It has been over a month since the disaster shook the country, but stories of rescue are still coming. “It speaks of the human spirit and gives us strength to keep going despite challenges,” said Hemanth, a core member of HSI India with experience of taking care of animals during any crisis. “If these animals could survive for three weeks after the disaster, then there was no reason for us to lose hope at all.”

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