NI search dog helps in rescue of Turkish woman

A search and rescue team from Northern Ireland has been instrumental in the rescue of a woman in Turkey’s earthquake disaster.

Melike Imamoglu, 42, was pulled from the rubble by rescuers in the town of Kahramanmaras on Wednesday.

Kyle Murray from K9 Search & Rescue NI said search dog Delta had indicated at the site she was found alive.

An indication is when a search dog signals that they have detected a specific scent.

More than 41,000 people have died in Tukey and neighboring Syria after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake.


The team of Mr Murray and Ryan Gray alongside search dogs Max and Delta flew to Turkey on Friday and are working with Evolsar, the European Association of Civil Protection Volunteer Teams.

Mr Murray said the fact that he and Delta had been instrumental in finding someone alive “really only hit me when Ryan phoned me this morning”.

“It’s overwhelming that after all that hard work to hear that the person has survived is great to hear and overwhelming,” he told BBC News NI.

He, Mr Gray and their dogs have since returned home to Northern Ireland.

“It will be hard to digest what we have seen and come though,” he said.

They have been working “constantly” and conditions were worse than they had anticipated, he said.

“Initially seeing the absolute devastation out there was mind blowing.

“Looking at photos and news reports didn’t really set me up for the extent of the damage that is here.

“It is rubble piles – these were seven story buildings that were pancaked on top of each other.”

‘Confidence and hope’

Despite the scenes being “numbing” at the start Mr. Murray said emotions were put to the side.

“We go to work mode – we were there to do a job,” he said.

“Everyone gets excited and they come to the site to make Turkish tea and give us food.

“When they hear the dog bark it’s in a total silence – the site needs to be silent so all the diggers and excavation work stops to let me go in to do my work.

“When they hear a dog bark it gives them confidence and hope.”

The rescuers got an early call on Wednesday morning, grabbed their kit and went to the search site.

They arrived to a quiet atmosphere and were told that it was believed that some people could be alive.

Mr. Murray said it was “fantastic” that someone was there recording the moment Delta indicated at the site.

He was asked to take Delta to two holes that had been dug out.

“I put her on to the first hole – she sniffed around the hole,” he said.

“She climbed up onto a shelf and I could tell she was interested in that area.

“When she got back down out of it she indicated to me that there were people in that area.”

Due to the way in which scent travels it takes time to pinpoint the exact area where the people are.

Mr. Murray and Delta kept going back and forth to the site to confirm the area where the dog thought the scent was coming from.

“It takes them about an hour to dig and excavate half a meter of concrete – it’s heavy going,” he said.

People were lifting the rubble out with their bare hands, putting it into buckets and then transferring it in a chain motion to the rubble pile,” he explained.

More people found alive

Another search team had a “great piece of kit which was able to tell us that there was still a heartbeat in the area”.

He said that it was a “massive boost of confidence”.

Now safely back in Northern Ireland the team is recovering and Delta and Max will get a vet check.

On Thursday, a teenage girl was rescued 10 days after the earthquake.

On Wednesday three women and two children were found alive.

Their rescue came as workers turned their attention to cleaning up cities devastated by February’s earthquakes.

Millions of people across Syria and Turkey are living in makeshift camps and require humanitarian aid.

Video of the rescue posted to social media by the Mayor of Darica, Muzaffer Biyik, showed workers applauding and embracing each other as Ms Kekec was loaded into the ambulance.

In Antakya – another Turkish city badly affected by the earthquakes – local media reported that a mother and her two children were pulled alive from the rubble.

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