HomeNewsPhilippine military ordinariate blesses rescue troops to Turkey

Philippine military ordinariate blesses rescue troops to Turkey

The Philippine contingent will join other aid agencies worldwide that are sending aid after a series of massive earthquakes shook parts of Turkey and Syria

The Military Ordinariate of the Philippines and the Office of the Chaplain Service led the blessing and send-off of rescue troops that the country is sending to Turkey this week.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday, February 7, said it would deploy 33 military personnel to help in ongoing search and rescue efforts in Turkey, which was rocked by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Monday.

The personnel are trained in search and rescue operations and have the equipment for the special task, according to AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Andres Centino.

“We are sending two groups, from the Army and the Air Force. A total of 33 personnel — 21 from the Army, 12 from the Air Force,” Centino told reporters.

While this is the first time for some of the troops to be deployed abroad, Centino said they have responded to various calamities and typhoons in the Philippines.

The Philippines is set to deploy an 85-man team that is composed of personnel two personnel from the OCD, 33 personnel from the medium USAR team of the AFP, 10 from the Metro Manila Development Authority, and nine from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and EMTs from the Department of Health numbering 31.

The team will be deployed to Tukey for at least two weeks and is set to depart on Wednesday, February 8, at the earliest via a commercial flight provided by Turkish Airlines.

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The Philippine contingent will join other aid agencies worldwide that are sending aid after a series of massive earthquakes shook parts of Turkey and Syria, leaving continued devastation in their wake.

Nikki Gamer, a spokesperson for the US-based Catholic Relief Services, told CNA that CRS is supporting local church partners in Turkey and Syria, including Caritas Turkey and Caritas Syria, but coordination remains difficult. CRS is raising funds via a banner on its website.

A Philippine inter-agency response team undergoes a readiness check at Camp Aguinaldo in the capital on February 7, 2023, before departing for a rescue and relief mission following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Syria and Turkey. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

The Catholic humanitarian organization Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is also readying an emergency aid program, spokesman Joop Koopman told CNA.

Their current focus is on the provision of blankets, milk for infants, and medical supplies, he said. In addition, engineers are inspecting houses making sure families can safely return to their homes, while many shelter in churches and church buildings.

In Syria, many cities and towns with a significant Christian population, such as Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia, and Hama, suffered major damage. In Aleppo, several UNESCO World Heritage sites were damaged, including the citadel of the old city.

Witnesses to the tragedy said the earthquake and its aftermath were, though brief, just as traumatic as the war.

Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo said they are hosting at least 50 people at the bishopry, while Bishop Ephraim Maalouli, the Greek Orthodox metropolitan bishop of Aleppo, Alexandretta, and their Dependencies, said they had already sheltered nearly 1,600 people at various churches in the city since the disaster.

Other Catholic groups are responding mightily to the many people in need. The Franciscans in Aleppo are currently hosting and feeding some 2,000 people at their convent, according to Father Massimo Fusarelli, minister general for the Order of Friars Minor. – with a report from CNA and PNA

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