BARRIO – Mexico is sending some of its famous search and rescue dogs to Turkey to help look for people buried under rubble following Monday’s earthquake. A plane with 16 dogs on board took off from Mexico City earlier on Tuesday.
Mexico, which is prone to earthquakes, has highly specialized civilian and military teams which are often deployed to help when disasters strike.
The dogs won the hearts of Mexicans during the country’s 2017 quake, when they saved several lives.
A yellow Labrador Retriever named Frida gained international fame when she was seen searching for survivors in Mexico City wearing protective goggles and boots. The navy credited Frida with saving 12 lives and locating 40 bodies in operations across Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala and Ecuador.
While Frida died of old age last year, at least one of her canine colleagues from the 2017 Mexico quake will form part of Mexican Navy team travelling to Turkey.
Ecko, a Belgian Malinois, was seen at the airport in Mexico City with his navy handler.
But the deployment is not just a military one. The civilian search and rescue group Los Topos de Tlatelolco (The Moles of Tlatelolco) is also on its way.
The group of highly experienced volunteers had messaged Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard offering their help.
Within hours, Mr Ebrard responded that transport had been arranged for them with the help of the Turkish embassy in Mexico City.
The foreign minister also posted a video of a member of the Red Cross with his four-legged companion on board the plane.
In the recording, Ángel Daniel Hernández says he has been training his German Shepherd Rex since he adopted him five years ago.
Mexico is not the only country sending dogs to help with the rescue efforts in Turkey and Syria.
Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Libya, Poland, Switzerland, the UK and the United States are all also deploying canines with their handlers.
The animals are often used in areas where the use of heavy machinery could cause the rubble to collapse further, putting the lives of survivors at risk.
The dogs are trained to sniff out humans and alert their handlers by barking and scratching the ground where the smell is strongest.
Mexican officials say their mission is “to save lives” and while the dogs can detect the smell of bodies as well as that of those who are buried under the rubble alive, the hope is that their quick deployment will result in rescues rather than recoveries.