Tears in eyes, warm affection and a deep sense of gratitude — this is how emotionally moved Turkish citizens, bid farewell to a medical team of the Indian Army when they were departing from Turkey after rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the quake-ravaged country.
The 99-member self-contained team that successfully set up and ran a fully equipped 30-bedded field hospital in Iskenderun, Hatay Province, has returned to India to a hero's welcome.
Some of the team members PTI interacted with, shared their experiences and challenges and spoke of the warmth and cooperation they received from Turkish people, despite "a language barrier".
“They [Turkish citizens] were crying when we were leaving. It was a very emotional moment for us as well. They hugged us to say thank you, it was a humbling experience,” said a member of the team, on the condition of anonymity.
"What we saw there was painful, scenes of devastation and destruction left by the massive earthquake and its powerful aftershock on February 6," he said.
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The medical team of 60 Para Field Hospital provided assistance to quake-affected people in Turkey from February 7-19.
Army Chief General Manoj Pande on Feb. 21 said the force is proud of its medical team for rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to quake-hit Turkey, and asserted that the mobilisation of a field hospital in short time indicates the team's excellent operational preparedness.
He said this after interacting with members of the medical team here.
The field hospital treated about 3,600 people, conducted numerous major and minor surgeries, including one amputated and life-saving surgery, he said.
"The hospital was mobilised at a short notice of six hours, and they moved to Turkey, and they landed there at Adana airfield on February 8 and within a short period of time, the Indian Army medical team established a 30-bed field hospital at Iskenderun in Hatay region," General Pande told reporters.
"It was the timely decision and excellent inter-agency coordination among all stakeholders, due to which they were among the first few medical teams to reach Turkey," he said.
India launched 'Operation Dost' to extend assistance to Turkey as well as Syria after various parts of the two countries were hit by a devastating earthquake on February 6 that has killed over 30,000 people.
Another member of the medical team said many Turkish people just came to "see and meet us" knowing an assistance team had arrived from India.
"One man had even travelled a very long distance by road to reach the field hospital that was set up in a school, and he told us that he had come just to meet people from 'Hindistan' [India]," the team member recalled.
Turkish people refer to India as 'Hindistan', he said with a smile.
Asked how they managed to tide over the language barrier, the medical team member said "there were interpreters to aid us".
"English language teachers also helped us in interacting with Turkish citizens, and vice versa," he said.
General Pande on Feb. 21 also said the medical team is extremely appreciative of the assistance and cooperation extended to them by Turkish citizens.
"Mobilisation of field hospital in such short time in Turkey also indicates the excellent operational preparedness they maintain at all time," General Pande said.
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India's '60 Para Field Ambulance' unit has an illustrious track record and it had also provided crucial medical support to the injured during the Korean War in 1950s.
"We are proud of our medical team for rendering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to quake-hit people in Turkey," General Pande said.
India sent relief materials as well as medical and rescue teams to Turkey following the quake. As part of quake assistance, India also sent relief materials and medicines to Syria.
The Ministry of Defence in a statement on Feb. 20 had said the Indian disaster relief team, comprising 99 personnel of Indian Army Field Hospital and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) returned home on February 20, after putting in a "stupendous effort" to provide medical relief to disaster victims in Hatay Province of Turkey, hit by earthquake.
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The medical team comprising 99 personnel, including various specialist medical officers and paramedics, established their field hospital at Iskenderun on Turkey on February 8, which included a fully functional operational theatre and trauma care centre, it said.
The specialists include medical specialist, surgical specialists, anaesthetists, orthopaedicians, maxillofacial surgeon and community medicine specialist for rendering medical assistance to earthquake victims. Besides, a woman medical officer was also sent for rendering medical care to women patients, the statement said.