A dog search and rescue charity from Co Down is preparing to be deployed in the disaster zone in Turkey following devastating earthquakes.
The death toll from Monday’s quakes in Turkey and Syria is estimated to have risen above 11,000.
Ryan Gray, from the K9 Search and Rescue NI charity, is leading a team to assist in the search effort, preparing to travel from Northern Ireland on Friday.
The 36-year-old from Bangor said they were on standby all week, and on Wednesday received the go-ahead from the Turkish government to fly out to the disaster zone.
The self-funded charity has been running for five years and has worked in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Scotland, including at the scene of the devastating service station explosion in Creeslough, Co Donegal, last year.
Mr Gray leads a team of eight dogs and 21 operational workers.
He has been involved with search and rescue for 14 years, including working for the Coastguard.
“This is what we train for. The dogs we are sending are USAR dogs (Urban Search and Rescue) and specialise in detecting people in collapsed building structures,” he said.
“We’ve trained in California, at the UK fire service college, and due to train in Kosovo next month. We’re a team that is hungry to learn from everyone, and we like to think we’re one of the most professional search and rescue dog teams in the UK.
“It’s fantastic what the dogs can do, I have no doubt when we go out there that we’ll be making a very positive difference.
“We will certainly do our very best while there.”
Search dogs Max and Delta, both black Labradors who were involved in the high-profile search effort in Creeslough, are being prepared to deploy to Turkey.
“We will fly to Turkey on Friday with the dogs but really have no idea of the scale of devastation we will face upon arrival,” Mr Gray said.
“We will get straight to work, knowing this search and rescue mission is time sensitive and every minute that passes can be the difference between life and death.”
He said the charity is self funded, and encouraged local people to support their work to allow them to remain in the disaster zone for as long as they are needed.
“We would be grateful of any support in the coming days and weeks,” he said.
Donations can be made to the charity via paypal here.