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Rescuers flood into Hatay – but face a scene of utterly mind-blowing devastation

The pace of the earthquake rescue operation in Hatay, southern Turkey has changed drastically.

Near the Syrian border, the province is one of the most affected by the multiple earthquakes that struck Turkey this week.

The scale of destruction is staggering.

After days of repeated pleas for help and complaints about the lack of action, it is now overflowing with volunteers, military police, and civil society groups.


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The constant drone of helicopters overhead is accompanied by the sound of sirens.

A steady stream of ambulances is seen zipping along Ataturk Avenue, which runs through Antakya, the provincial capital.

On Wednesday, there were scores of excavators and mechanical diggers available in the area. There are also winches and cranes to lift the rubble from every corner of the city.

Image Broken cars beneath a building that collapsed in Hatay (Süd Turkey) after a terrible earthquake

President Erdogan flew into the seismic zone this morning.

Kahramanmaras, in the southeast was his first stop. He admitted that there were mistakes made on the first day of the relief operation.

He offered no explanation, but said that everything was under control.

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Turkish President: Slow response

A heartbreaking way to read labels on your bodies

Hatay has seen an increase in the number of aid groups and personnel since the previous days, when there was very little.

They can’t receive enough help now because of the magnitude of the disaster.

There were many lines of bodies on the pavements. They were not in blocks of apartments, but they were placed in the middle of fields.

Image Search teams and rescuers attempt to remove the rubble

They may be covered with blankets, but some have labels.

It’s heartbreaking to see the people who have been lost checking the labels to make sure it’s their loved ones.

As he recognized the name, one man collapsed on the black bag and fell to the ground. Mass mourning is a way to express grief without embarrassment and it’s rarely private.

He was one of the few who have a place to call home.

Image The bodies taken from the rubble are placed in black bags

Survivors are too afraid to go indoors

Turkey has been plunged into a dystopian nightmare in the past few days. There is no safety and no relief from the suffering.

In a matter of seconds, many homes were turned into concrete coffins. This traumatized the survivors and crushed the residents.

Numerous tremors and Aftershocks accompanied the main earthquake. This included a second quake that brought down more buildings or made them severely structurally unstable.

This has resulted in thousands or even thousands of people being too afraid to go to bed indoors or to return home to their homes.

If they don’t have cars, they sleep rough on the streets or in cars. Many have taken refuge in tents, which are being rapidly erected.

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Women cry and destruction is all around.

Image Residents gather near a fallen building to light a fire.

Yet, despite the daily struggle to survive this disaster – to find food and warmth and clean up – many family members are focused on saving their loved ones.

Many claim they still hear sounds from under the rubble.

Humans have an amazing capacity to survive. It seems that hope is more difficult to crush than an eight-storey building.

No help for the dead

The desperate search for the living means that the dead must wait.

Residents were seen running past groups of bodies on the pavements, as we witnessed.

Antakya’s people are not as shocked by death today as they were on 6 February.

Despite the remarkable improvement in relief efforts, there are still many concerns about how the rescue operations are managed and the organization of them.

One woman said that they had received no help. “Those bodies have been lying there [on the pavement] for 2 days now.

“Why don’t they clear them?”

She launched into an angry tirade immediately against two volunteers who passed her in uniforms, asking them to help clear the building that had collapsed where her family is.

British team “keen to save lives”

A 76-strong British search and rescue volunteer team landed in the area. Within half an hour, they had spread out across four zones in Antakya in order to assess the situation. They also drafted a plan to help.

We have only seen them here as the first international team.

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Image British specialists join the search-and-rescue efforts

According to reports, others have arrived from Russia or Israel. We have received assistance from 45 countries. However, we have not seen any on the ground in Hatay yet.

This was until the arrival of British search and rescue firefighters.

They also brought four sniffer dogs along with specialised search-and-rescue equipment.

One member of the team said, “We’ve been eager to get started.”

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British rescue dogs aid quake search

Neil Woodmansey, dog handler, said that “We are a heavy-rescue team and have the dogs and equipment and we hope to make a positive difference.”

“The only reason that we are here is in order to save lives.

“There is always hope, and evidence suggests that people who are in the right circumstances can survive for quite some while so that’s why we’re here.”

Alex Crawford reports from Hatay, southern Turkey, with Jake Britton as cameraman, Chris Cunningham as specialist producer, and Guldenay sonumut as editor.


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