20231002 hatay
Members of the Swiss rescue team handing over a four-month-old girl called Abir rescued from under the rubble of a collapsed building following a massive earthquake on February 6, in Antakya in Hatay. Image Credit: AFP

Geneva: Rescue workers sent by Bern to Turkey have pulled earthquake victims out alive, the government said Thursday, a first in two decades of Swiss participation in international catastrophe response.

Switzerland sent a team of 80 rescue workers hours after the 7.8-magnitude quake hit Turkey and war-ravaged Syria early Monday, in a disaster that has killed more than 20,000 people.

The foreign ministry said Switzerland's specialist team had so far managed to rescue nine people, marking the first time they have brought people out alive.

More on Turkey-Syria quake

"We can confirm that this marks indeed the first time in 20 years that Swiss rescue workers sent to assist with catastrophe's abroad have found people alive," foreign ministry spokesman Valentin Clivaz told AFP.

He was confirming a report by public broadcaster RTS, which detailed how the Swiss rescuers on Wednesday evening pulled an elderly woman out of a collapsed building in Hatay, before saving a family of four, including a baby, overnight to Thursday.

Others had been rescued earlier in the week, it said.

Bern is preparing to send another team of dozens of rescue workers, logisticians, doctors and housing specialists to Turkey on Friday.

"Targeted aid is also being envisaged for Syria," the foreign ministry said.