“Passports were given out at night”: How Operation Dost came together, according to NDRF officials

NEW DELHI: The day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised India’s disaster relief workers, whom he said were among the first responders to arrive in Turkey, top officials of the National Defense Response Force (NDRF) detailed how many ministries collaborated to ensure that the NDRF team could fly out.

As the NDRF and the army finalised the squad, officials at the ministry of external affairs worked until late on February 6, the day quakes struck Turkey and Syria, to issue passports for everyone.

“The majority of squad members lacked passports. The rescuers had to be airlifted quickly, so MEA opened its offices and printed their passports. Additionally, the Turkish embassy in Delhi ensured visa-on-arrival for all rescuers,” NDRF inspector general (IG) Narendra Bundela said on Tuesday during an NDRF news briefing.

India started Operation Dost with the intention of aiding the Turkish authorities with relief activities, and dispatched NDRF and Indian Army forces. The first group departed around 3 a.m. on February 7th.

Atul Karwal, director general of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), stated that the defence ministry dispatched three C-17 Globemaster aircraft to transport rescuers, their equipment, and vehicles.

“We did not wish to burden the local administration during the crucial rescue hours.” The aircraft was able to transport all of our automobiles. Because of this decision, we got our trucks and were able to immediately begin work.”

Karwal stated that rescue teams from other nations have arrived in Turkey but were unable to deploy quickly due to a lack of vehicles.

Karwal reported that the teams camped outdoors in tents. “Our crews were equipped with a tent, food, and fuel. We were one of the first international teams to arrive there,” he continued.

After more than 84 hours, the three NDRF teams engaged in the search and rescue operation discovered two minor girls, Beren (6) and Miray (8), still alive and rescued 85 remains from the wreckage.

Tuesday during the news conference, Karwal also recounted instances in which the NDRF team’s assistance garnered admiration from the local populace.

Some attempted to convey their gratitude in their own special way.

“Allow me to relate a story. Deepak (Talwar), one of our officers (assistant commandant), discovered the bodies of Ahmed’s family. Deepak is a vegetarian. Ahmed accompanied Deepak wherever he went as part of his deployment duty and served him vegetarian cuisine. Whether it was an apple or a tomato, Ahmed brought Deepak anything he could manage. There was a close relationship between our rescuers and the townspeople. They demanded that we surrender our identification badges, and in exchange, they placed something important belonging to them in our pockets, the head of the NDRF stated.

Deepak Talwar later told HT that he was startled by Ahmed’s ability to locate him. “It astonished me that Ahmed could find me at various locations and offer me fruit. It was such a generous act. In appreciation, Turkish officials also offered us their badges upon our return. It was a heartfelt gesture.”

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