Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Team received a warm welcome early Tuesday morning as they returned from a two-week deployment to Turkey following that region’s deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake.
The team consisting of 80 people and six K9s arrived by bus at the Urban Search and Rescue headquarters in Pacoima just after midnight, where they were greeted by family, friends and fellow firefighters.
The team’s deployment focused on the hard-hit city of Adiyaman, Turkey, located roughly 60 miles northeast of the Feb. 6 earthquake’s epicenter.
“(We saw) quite a bit of damage and devastation … a lot of multi-story apartment complexes that came down in a pancake-like fashion,” said canine search specialist Michael Toepfer. “(Buildings) that were once seven or eight stories were only about 30 feet in height.”
During their deployment, Mike Leum, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department search and rescue veteran, shared pictures and footage on social media of the dramatic rescue of a 52-year-old woman and her 18-year-old son from underneath the rubble.
More than 44,000 people have been reported dead in the earthquake, a toll that is expected to rise as search teams locate more bodies.