Spain on Sunday sent 86 rescuers and eight search dogs to Morocco following the powerful earthquake that killed over 2,100 people, responding to a formal request for help from Rabat.
A military plane took off Sunday morning from a base in the northeastern city of Zaragoza with 56 rescuers and four search dogs bound for Marrakesh, said a defence ministry statement.
Their mission is to “help in the search and rescue of survivors of the devastating earthquake suffered in our neighbouring country”.
The rescue team belongs to Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit (UME), a body of the armed forces created to intervene quickly in emergency situations such as forest fires, floods and earthquakes.
They are equipped with tools to drill and cut reinforced concrete, as well as the means to detect toxic or explosive substances to ensure rescue teams work in safety, the defence ministry statement said.
UME teams have been deployed before to help in earthquake rescues in Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, Nepal and most recently Turkey in February where they rescued six people, including a mother and two children.
On Sunday evening another military plane took off from a base in Torrejon de Ardoz near Madrid with 30 rescuers and four search dogs, an interior ministry spokesman said.
This rescue team, run by the regional government of Madrid; has previously been deployed to help Chile, Ecuador and Haiti following earthquakes.
“We will send whatever is needed because everyone knows that these first hours are key, especially if there are people buried under rubble,” Defence Minister Margarita Robles told Spanish public television.
The strongest-ever quake to hit Morocco has killed at least 2,122 people and injured more than 2,400, many seriously, according to the latest official figures.
Earlier Sunday, Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Madrid would send aid to Morocco after receiving a formal request.
“It is a sign of Spanish solidarity and of the sense of friendship that unites the people of Spain with the people of Morocco,” he told Catalunya Radio.
He had received a call from his Moroccan counterpart requesting the aid in the early hours of Sunday, he added.
Other countries, including the United States and France, have pledged humanitarian aid, but Morocco would first need to formally request assistance, a step required before foreign crews can deploy.
Originally published as Spain sends two planes with rescuers to quake-hit Morocco