SEPANG: A total of 65 Malaysian search and rescue team members who assisted efforts to locate earthquake victims in Gaziantep, Turkiye returned home today.

The first group of 30 members arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) here at around 12.23 pm, and the second group of 35 arrived later at 5 pm. They are part of the 140-strong team, along with two K9 dogs, that was sent to Turkiye in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Speaking to reporters while greeting the returning first group at KLIA, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah, Sarawak and Special Functions) Datuk Armizan Mohd Ali said overall, the SAR team’s assignments all went smoothly.

The team, he said, faced various challenges, including extreme weather at the disaster location, logistics and transport coordination as well as language barriers.

Nine team members also faced health issues during the mission, including fever, injuries to their shoulders and knees, but managed to recover after being treated, he said, adding that before they returned home, all team members underwent a demobilisation process with assignments ending in stages, followed by a one-day rehabilitation period in Istanbul, involving health checks before coming home.

Armizan said the government deeply appreciated the team’s sacrifices, and will provide them with a special incentive in the form of medals and special allowance, as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Feb 16 in Parliament.

He added that the government was working to ensure the rest of the team would return as soon as possible, stating that Turkish president Reccep Tayyip Erdogan had requested that their service be extended slightly to assist with the installation of temporary camps for the victims, and that they would likely return within the week.

He also added that the Malaysian field hospital operating in Celikhan, Aditaman, would continue operating, unlike the SAR team, which, in accordance with the international standard operating procedure, would complete their functions within 14 days.

“Humanitarian aid, including the field hospital, will continue for now, and will take into account the Turkish government’s need for other forms of assistance.

Since opening on Feb 14, the field hospital, located around 152 kilometres from Gaziantep, has treated 164 patients up until Feb 18. The field hospital is equipped to handle outpatient treatment, pregnancies and gynaecology, paediatric, orthopaedic and dental cases, along with general surgery. - Bernama