Operation Dost: India’s Unyielding Hand in Turkey’s Hour of Need

Sub Title : ‘Operation Dost’ is a testimony to India’s growing prowess in disaster management and response

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 4 Sep – Oct 2023

Author : Shri Guminder Singh, Commandant, 2nd Bn NDRF

Page No. : 50

Category : Military Affairs

: September 22, 2023

On February 6, 2023, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake rattled central Turkey. This article delves into the prompt global response, focusing on India’s pivotal rescue mission and underlines the imperative of international collaboration in disaster management.

On February 6, 2023, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck the central regions of Turkey causing widespread devastation and tragic damage. The event triggered a series of challenges that required immediate attention and global cooperation. India immediately deployed 02 NDRF teams which were quickly airlifted to help in search and rescue operations. The article highlights the details of the Mission and the response by India and the world.

Urgent Call for Help

More than 50,000 people lost their lives and more than a million were left homeless when the earthquake struck in the early hours of February 6. India’s unwavering commitment to aid and disaster relief was evident when Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi immediately convened a high-level meeting to craft an effective action strategy. Guided by the principle “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (the world is one family), India’s approach to crisis cooperation is rooted in solidarity and empathy.

Operation Dost

“Dost Kara gunde belli olur” meaning “A friend in need is a friend indeed. This was the first reaction of the Turkish Ambassador when India launched its rescue operation “Dost” After receiving directions from the Govt NDRF was quick to act. Within hours three teams comprising 152 rescuers equipped with collapsed structure search and rescue (CSSR) equipment, medical staff, a dog squad, and relief materials landed in Turkey to help with Search and rescue efforts.

The teams of NDRF were under the command and control of Sh. Gurminder Singh, Comdt, to whom reported the 3 teams, namely IND-10 from 8 NDRF Ghaziabad led by Sh. Deepak Talwar, DC, IND-11 from 2nd NDRF Kolkata, led by Sh. V N Parashar, 2IC, and IND-12 from 11 NDRF Varanasi was led by Sh. Abhishek Kr Rai, DC.

The NDRF teams showed incredible dedication and expertise in their duties. Working in harsh conditions such as low temperatures and unsafe buildings, the rescuers showed their courage by managing to save two lives and retrieve 85 dead bodies from the rubble. The operation lasted for about 10 days where the teams worked in 35 different sites clearing debris, retrieving bodies, and rescuing live victims. The rescue mission Under the banner of “Operation Dost” proved to be very successful as NDRF teams were among the few teams that reached the country first. A medical camp was also established by NDRF at Nurdagi, Gaziantep, and medical assistance was provided to the victims.

Beneath the rubble: Unearthing hope Amidst Disaster

Rescuers saw the Tears of joy in locals when NDRF teams were able to rescue two girls namely Beren (Aged 06 Years) and Miray Karatas (Aged 8 years) from underneath the rubble bringing hope in a disaster torn country.

Challenges Faced

While the efforts of the NDRF teams are commendable, the mission highlighted various challenges that need to be addressed for future operations. Conducting search and rescue operations in other countries comes with unique challenges. The teams deployed in Turkey were working in temperatures as low as 2 degrees. Apart from the temperatures the teams also initially faced problems in communication and translation. However, this was quickly negated by use of technology for translation.

Beyond Boundaries: International Collaboration in Disaster Relief

The experience of the NDRF mission in Turkey highlights the critical importance of improving international cooperation in disaster response and management. Since Natural disasters often cross geopolitical boundaries it requires a concerted global response. Taking lessons from this mission, we can undertake important steps to strengthen international cooperation.

Language and Cultural Training

Training in intercultural communication and language skills can increase effective communication between international groups, bridging the gap created by language differences. Joint exercises where rescuers exchange ideas and work together can help bridge this gap.

Equipment and training

Disaster Management is an evolving strategy. While NDRF’s equipment is state of the Art the teams need to update themselves often with the best available tools in the world. Sharing best practices and technology between countries can lead to the adoption of advanced equipment and techniques improving the effectiveness of rescue operations

Preparatory meetings

Regular international meetings and training sessions can provide an exchange of knowledge and experience, and foster friendship and shared responsibilities.

Establishing a Network of Disaster response forces

While there is an International body named INSRAG (International Search and Rescue Advisory Group) comprising teams from the world there is a need to form regional groups on the lines of ASEAN, and BIMSTEC where disaster response teams of regional countries are part of it. These groups can help in the quicker deployment of search and rescue teams and improve the speed and effectiveness of rescue operations.  Through information sharing, joint training, and pre-established policies, neighbouring countries can support each other faster and more efficiently.

Sky Saviours

UAVs and drones have changed the way the world responds to a challenge. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, can be used to locate disaster areas, assess damage and identify survivors. These devices provide real-time information and images, allowing rescue teams to make informed decisions.

Algorithms against Diversity

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help predict the course and impact of natural disasters, supporting early warning systems. By analysing historical data and deducting probability of the impact of disasters , AI algorithms can provide accurate forecasts, giving countries more time to prepare and evacuate as needed.

Rising Together

While international cooperation is crucial in disaster response, the importance of local community capacity cannot be overstated. Local communities are often the first to be affected and the first to respond. It is important to build their capacity to prepare and respond to disasters. This goal can be achieved through education, training, and access to resources. Additionally, the integration of local knowledge into disaster planning is essential. For example, Turkish locals were able to guide NDRF teams by helping to identify sites that had residents living on certain floors. This helped the teams in establishing contact with live victims and saving lives.

Collective Defense

Major disasters often require a multidisciplinary approach involving not only governments and international organizations, but also the private sector. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) play an important role in disaster management by mobilizing sectoral resources, knowledge, and innovation.

Eyes open and Hearts Ready

In addition to operational strategies, public education on disaster preparedness and response is paramount. A well-informed population is better equipped to respond effectively to emergencies, thereby reducing the overall impact of disasters. Educational campaigns, workshops, and exercises can teach individuals and communities how to make emergency plans, assemble survival kits, and provide basic first aid. People need to understand that disasters know no borders and that cooperation is essential for a comprehensive and effective response. This awareness could lead to greater public support for initiatives aimed at increasing global cooperation.

Beyond Rubbles: Final thought

International collaboration in disaster management is now more important than ever since natural disasters occur around the world more frequently. The earthquake that occurred near Turkey and Syria serves as a sobering reminder that no country is immune to the effects of nature and that working together to find solutions is the best course of action.

Lessons from the NDRF missions to Turkey serve as a guide for future cooperative initiatives. There are opportunities and obstacles on the path to global catastrophe management collaboration. We can create a future where tragedies are reacted to swiftly, effectively, and compassionately by understanding how linked our planet is and the shared responsibility for everyone’s well-being.

A tragic event that brought out the best in humanity’s unity was the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The diligent efforts of NDRF personnel and other international responders have shown the effectiveness of coordinated, cross-border actions in saving lives, providing aid, and reuniting torn-apart communities.