Future Lister joins USAR on a rescue mission in Turkey

Among the 200+ members of the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Medium Team to Turkey, was The Future List’s own Dr Alongkot Chukaew in his capacity as Director of the Environmental and Social Foundation (ESF) to which the K9 team is affiliated. The team was sent on a humanitarian mission to help victims of the massive earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria.

Dr Alongkot’s role with the USAR team was to act as head of the War Room in Turkey’s Hatay Province, near the Syrian border, not far from the epicentre of the earthquake. He communicates with the rescue team in their task to search for victims under the rubble, supports the handlers of the K9 team—7 year-old Sierra and 5 year-old Sahara—in the field, facilitates news and information exchange and daily online meetings and reports with the Bangkok control centre.

Dr Alongkot is known mainly as a wildlife and marine conservationist, and his elephant sanctuary in Khao Yai is used as a knowledge centre for children in creating awareness for the plight of Thai elephants.

He has been updating the progress of the USAR mission via the ESF Facebook page. Sierra and Sahara are both highly trained female Golden Retrievers, and on this mission they work for 30 minute stretches at a time followed by a break. Despite the freezing temperatures which contrasts with the heat and humidity of Thailand, they have been stoically carrying out their task, and within the first day, Sahara helped to recover one victim under the rubble.

Nothing is ever straightforward or easy for both man and dog. As reported, Proteo, one of K9 team members from Mexico, lost his life in the line of duty when an unstable building collapsed on top of him while searching for two victims buried under the rubble.

Not only does the team have to withstand the freezing cold temperatures, they also have to beware of falling rubble and aftershocks.

Sierra and Sahara are not only hard-working team members while they are conducting searches; during their breaks, they provide much-needed emotional relief to youngsters in the area, many of whom are wounded and traumatized.

Dr Alongkot’s own Golden Retriever, Singto—often pictured on his Facebook page in the company of the late Auntie Kham Mun, the elephant, and Mun Foy (Rubbish), the local wild boar—is also a trained rescue dog and will one day take his place on the USAR team when and where needed.