Touching stories from Việt Nam's 'humanitarian ambassadors' in Turkey

February 21, 2023 - 15:00
Their efforts marked a significant milestone in the nation's commitment to global humanitarianism.
Vietnamese rescuers in Turkey. — Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security

HÀ NỘI — Colonel Nguyễn Minh Khương, leader of the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security's mission to Turkey, has been deeply touched by the experience of helping victims in the aftermath of the earthquakes that hit the region.

Their efforts marked a significant milestone in the nation's commitment to global humanitarianism.

As the head of Việt Nam's first international rescue mission, Khương and his team worked tirelessly to help in any way they could.

"Because it is our first time, we have no experience," Colonel Khương said. "But, anticipating the difficulties, we have prepared quite well, from the logistics and means of performing the rescue work. This preparation helps us to be quite proactive.”

After seven days of searching for victims buried in the rubble, the Vietnamese mission completed their assigned task.

They coordinated with rescue forces from other countries to rescue one person from the collapsed area.

They also located and recovered 14 bodies, handing them over to local health authorities and donating medical supplies to the Turkish government and Adiyaman City.

One of the most memorable and moving images for the group was when they visited the victims around the crash site.

“They lay outside on the sidewalk in tents next to the rubble," Colonel Khương said. "Even if they have a house, they cannot enter because the aftershocks can come anytime.

"There is a family with ten members in a small tent, but the furnace is not warm enough in the weather of -10 degrees Celsius. We help them get water and food and share what we have - instant noodles and dried food. A baby came out and hugged a soldier.”

His voice broke when recalling the team pulling someone from the rubble alive.

“Many soldiers cried. That moment was unforgettable for each of us.”

Leaving Turkey brought a lot of emotions for the whole group.

Khương remembers the families, people organisations who showed their appreciation for the Vietnamese mission.

"On the way to the airport and at the airport, the people and authorities were grateful and repeated "Việt Nam, Việt Nam" many times when we passed," said Khương.

Learn from experience

Vietnamese soldiers give presents to people. — Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security

Participating in an international rescue mission for the first time, the Ministry of Public Security's soldiers gained valuable experiences.

Colonel Khương said three major lessons were initiatives in logistics and means of rescue work, language skills to unify rescue plans and how to work with rescue teams from different countries.

Within 24 hours of arriving in Turkey, the soldiers immediately began to survey the scene.

“We arrived at midnight local time," Colonel Khương said. "The outdoor temperature was -6 degrees Celsius. We unloaded 12.5 tonnes of goods cargo from our container and camped until 6am. Cold weather is a challenge for Vietnamese soldiers who have never known temperatures below zero,” said Khương.

Another difficulty was the language barrier.

"Only two soldiers in our group know English. At first, we could not reach a common plan with other teams. After two days of overcoming weather and language conditions, we worked it out and completed our task," said Khương.

After ten days of performing rescue work, lessons have been learned which will be included in the rescue curriculum.

“If we didn’t bring the electric generator, we could not work at night,” he said.

It is also necessary to proactively contact Vietnamese citizens living in the rescue area for their support in understanding the culture and language.

Another thing that Khương and his comrades will draw on in the future is the experience of working with international friends.

“We learned from them the working attitude and skills. We studied their new equipment and are familiar with how to use it in the future," said Khương.

Khương and the remaining 23 soldiers are proud to have served with international colleagues and shown that Vietnamese people can perform well in rescue work and are not afraid of difficulties and hardship.

The mission made a small contribution to help the Turkish people reduce difficulties and to build solidarity and a strong relationship between the two countries.

Khương said: "The Turkish people, armed forces and authorities recognised and highly appreciated the meaningful and humanitarian deeds of the ‘Vietnamese Ambassadors of Humanitarian’.

On behalf of the Ministry of Public Security, Deputy Minister Lê Quốc Hùng praised the 24 soldiers’ sense of responsibility.

The Deputy Minister wished the soldiers would promote their achievements and continue to do more outstanding rescue work.

Deputy Minister Lê Quốc Hùng and Deputy Minister Nguyễn Văn Long presented certificates of merit from the Ministry of Public Security to the mission.

They also received certificates of merit from the Central Committee of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union and the Việt Nam Red Cross Society. — VNS