Turkish President honours SAPS K9 team for saving lives after earthquake

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Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan has honoured the South African Police Service (SAPS) K9 search and rescue team, following the devastating earthquake that engulfed the country in February.

The team was recognised for their incredible intervention in the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria that claimed over 50 000 lives – including 45 968 confirmed deaths in Türkiye and 7 259 in Syria.

Brigadier Vimla Moodley was the commander who was tasked with leading the SAPS rescue and recovery operations, along with the Gift of the Givers Foundation rescue mission.

Moodley, who hails from the Eastern Cape, received a medal of supreme sacrifice on behalf of the organisation.

Five sniffer dogs and their handlers were also recognised by the Türkiye government.

“The SAPS K9 team was among the first few rescue teams to arrive and successfully assisted in recovering and rescuing one live victim aged 90 after nine days of being trapped under the rubble and recovered over 200 bodies,” the SAPS statement read.

According to reports, the certificate from Erdogan was presented on Memorial Day, which is observed every year on the day before Independence Day.

The SAPS National Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, says the team displayed excellence and expertise that exists within the organisation.

“It is an honour to lead such excellence. When approached to go and assist the Turkish, they didn’t hesitate to respond to the call of duty. Thank you to each one of the team members for representing the SAPS and our country with great pride. Many thanks to Brigadier Moodley for leading effortlessly,” Masemola added.

The SAPS K9 search and rescue teams have been involved in numerous recovery operations across the world including the Haiti 2010 earthquake.