Heroic rescue dogs that were deployed to Turkey following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6 are being honoured for their service by Turkish Airlines. The dogs are being upgraded to first-class travel, including business class, as the airline does not want them to travel in the cargo hold after their heroic efforts. Rescue dogs were sent to Turkey from countries including the US, the UK, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Libya, Poland, Switzerland, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, and China. These dogs are trained to sniff out humans and alert their handlers by barking and scratching the ground where the scent is strongest.

The airline has also provided free cargo transportation for urgent medical supplies to aid in the recovery and rebuilding of areas affected by the earthquakes. Additionally, the airline provided free flights for evacuees after the earthquake, with 296,819 citizens evacuated by 1,646 flights. Furthermore, Turkish Airlines donated free carrying cases to airports so that other pets could be safely boarded onto aircraft for evacuation flights.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to rebuild homes within a year, although experts have warned safety should come before speed. The U.N. Development Program estimates that 116-210 million tonnes of rubble are equivalent to an area of 100 square km (40 square miles), if it were stacked to a height of 1 metre, and will require disposal. The earthquake and aftershocks left at least 156,000 buildings either completely collapsed or damaged to the point where they require demolition, with whole areas of cities reduced to shattered concrete and steel.

Turkey’s opposition alliance fractured on Friday after one of the leaders refused to endorse a joint candidate against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The cracks emerged a day after the six opposition party leaders held a meeting in Ankara to discuss whom to field against Erdogan in the May 14 polls. Five parties endorsed Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a former civil servant who heads Turkey’s main secular party, as the frontrunner in the bid to end Erdogan’s rule. However, Meral Aksener, leader of the nationalist Iyi Party, has resisted Kilicdaroglu, backing instead Istanbul’s popular opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu or Ankara’s mayor Mansur Yavas. Aksener believes that the “Table of Six” has lost its ability to reflect the will of the nation in its decisions.

Rescue Dogs Return from Turkish Earthquake Zone