MANILA (UPDATED) — Cold weather and the language barrier will pose a challenge for the Philippine contingent in Turkey and Syria, a disaster response expert said Wednesday.
According to Dr. Ted Esguerra of the country's urban search and rescue team, they are expecting sub-zero temperatures in areas affected by the Monday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake that killed thousands in Turkey and Syria.
"The challenge for Filipinos is, of course, the weather and the language because the Turkish language is not like Arabic. It's totally different... That's one of the adversities our team will face," he told ANC's "Rundown."
Instead of K-9 units, the Philippine team will bring a life locator, which can detect signs of life under collapsed structures, Esguerra said.
"This is our commitment to the world that despite the fact that we are a country along the accident and disaster corridor, we're quite accustomed to responding to these kinds of hazards," he said.
"We will be there for Turkey and In sha'Allah, maybe Syria. It depends on the needs assessment and whatever the alert level will tell us."
The 85-person rescue team will include health workers and engineers from the Department of Defense and the Metro Manila Development Authority, who are ready to fly to Turkey by Wednesday, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday said it was also ready to deploy personnel to help with rescue operations in Turkey and Syria.
The PNP is just waiting for orders from higher-ups, said national police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo.
"Sa ngayon ay nag-a-account na ang ating concerned directorate doon sa mga sinasabi ko pang mga trained na medical doctors and nurses pati 'yung ating trained SAR (Search and Rescue)-PNP personnel at magiging ready sila as soon as may directive tayo na magpadala tayo doon ng personnel," Fajardo said at a press briefing held Wednesday.
(Right now our concerned directorate is accounting for the trained medical doctors and nurses, as well as our trained SAR PNP personnel, and they will be ready as soon as we have a directive to send personnel there.)
The 7.8-magnitude quake struck Monday as people slept, flattening thousands of structures, trapping an unknown number of people and potentially impacting millions.
Whole rows of buildings collapsed, leaving some of the heaviest devastation near the quake's epicenter between the Turkish cities of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.
The destruction led to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declaring Tuesday a 3-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces.
A winter storm has compounded the misery by rendering many roads -- some of them damaged by the quake -- almost impassable, resulting in traffic jams that stretch for kilometers in some regions.
The cold rain and snow are a risk both for people forced from their homes -- who took refuge in mosques, schools or even bus shelters -- and survivors buried under debris.
Officially, the death toll from the disaster now stands at 8,364. But that could yet double if the worst fears of experts are realized.
WHO warned that up to 23 million people could be affected by the massive earthquake and urged nations to rush help to the disaster zone.
— With reports from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse