Touching positions of Dubai Police officers during the rescue operation of a mother and 3 children

The UAE team is the first responder to the "Turkey earthquake" and the last to leave

  • During the execution of one of the rescue missions. Archival


"Emirates Today" monitored the scenes of the humanitarian mission of part of the Emirati rescue team, specifically from the Dubai Police, in the operation "The Gentleman Knight 2" in the Republic of Turkey, following the earthquake that struck its territory with the State of Syria early last month, leaving huge destruction in the two countries and thousands of victims.

The head of the UAE rescue team in Kahramanmaraş, Turkey, Colonel Khalid Ibrahim Al Hammadi, revealed that the team was the first of all international teams, and the last to leave under the directives of the country's leadership.

Al Hammadi told Emirates Today: "We faced complex challenges and difficult moments punctuated by feelings of sadness when the bodies of the victims were recovered, especially children, including a family consisting of a father, mother and child who were surprised by the earthquake while they were sleeping, and they were all in a sleeping position, and the child holding her mother's hand, and feelings of joy when rescuing people after continuous hours of work."

He stressed that he was able to squeeze his body with difficulty into a narrow opening, to determine the status of a Syrian family consisting of a mother and three children who collapsed on a four-story building, and the four of them were on a bed, and the wall almost stuck to their faces amid painful conditions they suffered for four days before they were successfully removed.

Dubai Police announced a state of alert immediately after the earthquake, by launching the early warning system, and equipping an operations room at the Resilience Center specialized in crisis and disaster management, and preparations for the mission began before the official summons from the Joint Operations Command of the Armed Forces, which managed the operation and provided exceptional equipment and support, represented in transporting heavy equipment and machinery by air to the stricken area, to be the fastest UAE team to respond, moving in less than seven hours, and the only one who participated with its equipment.

Colonel Khalid Al Hammadi, Director of the Search and Rescue Department at Dubai Police, said the team received the official summons from the Joint Operations Command of the UAE Armed Forces on the sixth of February immediately after the earthquake.

He added: "We were set for a departure hour from Abu Dhabi, so a state of alert was declared and our preparations were completed in just five hours, so that a team from Dubai consisting of 46 people from Dubai Police, the Ambulance Corporation and the National Ambulance joined the rest of the UAE team from Abu Dhabi and the country in general, bringing the number to 110 individuals."

He added that «the Joint Operations Command made a great effort to secure the equipment with which the UAE rescue team works, so it was transported in other planes, to be the first international team to reach the Kahramanmaraş area, with its mechanisms and devices, unlike other teams that used Turkish equipment».

He said that «the situation was catastrophic there, and the team faced very difficult challenges after the identification of the work area by the Turkish Disaster Management Organization (AFAD), and the competent organizations of the United Nations, roads were destroyed, bridges collapsed, as well as the terrible crowding of residents who fled their homes and gathered in the streets», pointing out that «the journey to reach the site took more than seven hours, during which the team was forced to penetrate into villages and mountain passes».

"The bitter cold was a great challenge in itself, our men are not used to this painful climate, but they immediately proceeded to work as soon as they arrived at the site, despite the complete darkness due to the power outage, and joined a Turkish team in rescuing a girl from the rubble," he stressed.

Al-Hammadi explained that «the rescue operation was not interrupted, as the team was divided into small alternating teams that surrender each other, and the rest period did not exceed one hour, during which we sleep in cars because of the painful cold».

"The most complicated moment was the process of rescuing the Syrian family, which began when an elderly woman came to us and told us that she heard a distress sound from under the rubble of a building, and we went based on her signal to find a completely collapsed building, which is difficult to find alive underneath," he said.

He added that «our men were able to identify the source of the sound, and heard a woman asking to save her and her children», pointing out that «the difficulty of the process was the need to use manual crushing tools to break up concrete carefully, because hydraulic equipment can cause an additional collapse, and kill them».

He added that he sneaked with difficulty part of his body into a hole that the team cut under the area where the woman is, and saw her and her three children lying on one bed, gathered on it when the earthquake surprised them, noting that she told him that something hit her back and caused her great pain, so he went deeper to find a piece of wood hitting her back.

He said he was able to cut it and free the woman from it, which made her feel some comfort.

Al-Hammadi stressed that the scene can never leave his mind despite his long experience in this work, and his participation in rescue operations with disasters and earthquakes in other countries, as «the building was almost collapsed on the beds, and the concrete ceiling was separated from their faces only a few centimeters that prevent them from even being able to touch their faces with their hands, and they continued in this position for about four days before rescuing them».

He added that the rescue team was able to get the mother out first, because she was at the beginning of the path that was cut, and recommended before her exit to cover it, and this is what we were keen on in a humanitarian scene that is not repeated often, and then we took out her children one by one, after seven full hours of painstaking and cautious work, amid tears of joy that some of us could not control, as we were determined from the beginning to get them out no matter what the circumstances.

Al-Hammadi said that he and a number of rescuers in the team participated in rescue operations after major disasters, such as the Indonesian tsunami and the earthquakes of Iran and Pakistan, but the earthquake in Turkey remains more complex, in light of the massive destruction of several areas whose terrain has completely changed, and the challenges of extreme cold and darkness to the point that we felt that we were working in a ghost town, where people gather in a painful scene groups to warm around a fire, amid dust and fires that have been burning for some time.

Earthquakes in action

Al Hammadi said that the challenges faced by the UAE rescue team during the performance of its tasks included successive earthquakes and tremors, noting that the sites were well secured, in order to ensure the safety of the team members.

He stated that the rescue team participated in rescuing 10 alive people, and recovered 26 bodies, expressing his pride and pride in representing his country in this great humanitarian work, which reflects the value of the state, and its constant presence in times of adversity to help others.

Experience and youth

"The Dubai Police team included a mix of experienced elements who participated in similar disasters previously, and youth elements who moved for the first time to work in these complex humanitarian conditions, so it was necessary to prepare them psychologically so that they can make the appropriate decisions at the right time, despite the circumstances surrounding them, because readiness with ideas and plans is one of the basics of the work of a rescuer," said Lieutenant Hashem Musa Mohammed, a man of difficult missions at the Search and Rescue Department.

"The challenges were difficult, and we started working as soon as we arrived participating in rescuing a man who suffered two days under the rubble of five floors on top of which collapsed, a girl, and then the Syrian family. The cases continued in a deliberate rescue operation, during which we assumed a major aspect in light of the great capabilities provided by the Joint Operations Command to transport our vehicles and equipment."

A member of the team, First Sergeant Hassan Ali Abdul Salam, said that the Dubai Police team is fully trained to deal with accidents, whether collapses or rescue in confined spaces, pointing out that the first challenge he faced in the earthquake in Turkey was the speed of response, and preparation for the flight, which started within only five hours of the summons.

He stressed that «everyone worked like a beehive, and cooperated wonderfully, we answered the call as best as possible, and we were the first to respond and arrived in Turkish territory with our equipment and mechanisms», noting that «the situation was catastrophic when we arrived, the destruction was painfully befalling the place, and it is natural to expect that there are victims under the rubble, whether they are alive and need our immediate help or bodies that must be recovered».

Police dogs

Sergeant Mohammed Abdullah, from the Security Inspection Department (K9), said that he participated in the police dog team, and was accompanied by factions specialized in discovering bodies, and others in finding the missing alive.

He added that the work team was distributed to the Kahramanmaraş area, and began rescue with the missing teams at the beginning, amid great difficulties, represented by the presence of obstacles and major collapses, preventing access to people trapped under the rubble even if they were spotted through dogs, and this cast a heavy humanitarian shadow on our hearts, because saving someone could have cost the loss of an entire team.

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Quick response

Lieutenant Hassan Ismail Al Balushi, a specialist officer in crises and disasters, from the Resilience Center at the Dubai Police General Headquarters, said that "the center followed the earthquake from the first moment through the early warning system, and informed the leaders of its current developments, so we were assigned by the commander to take the necessary preparations pending the official summons, and this was enough to achieve an ideal response speed."

He added that the Resilience Center, according to its role, coordinated with the various partners from Dubai Ambulance, National Ambulance, rescuers and security inspection «K9» from Dubai Police, and then the summons came from the Joint Operations Command of the Armed Forces, which spared no effort in the operation «Gentleman Knight 2», whether by providing an air bridge that transports men and equipment in a wonderful humanitarian scene.

He pointed out that «the Flexibility Center took over securing the needs of the team, of means of communication, and moved with him to Turkey to equip the stationing site, in parallel with the activation of an operations room at the center's headquarters at the Dubai Police General Headquarters, and the operation of the shift system around the clock to follow the progress of operations minute by minute, stressing that the feelings of the team members were a mixture of sadness due to the major disaster, and pride in the strong presence of the state at the time of the intensification of the crisis».

"The directives that came to the UAE team in Turkey and Syria are to be the last to leave," he said.

• "The operation to rescue the Syrian family began when an elderly woman said she heard a cry for help from under the rubble of a collapsed building."

• "The team was divided into small, rotating teams. They surrender to each other, and the rest period sometimes did not exceed one hour."

• «Equipping an operating room in the Resilience Center.. And activate the shift system to follow up the situation around the clock."

• "The UAE team used specialized dogs to search for the missing. and another to retrieve the bodies of the victims."