Turkish rescue team puts smiles on Haitians' faces
Turkish rescue workers stand in front of a collapsed building in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
A magnitude-7 earthquake devastated the city last Tuesday, prompting an international outpouring of aid. Almost two days after other rescue teams abandoned hopes of finding any more survivors in the wreckage of a five-story Caribbean shopping center, the Turkish rescue team, GEA, pulled out five people from under rubble.
GEA (Mother Earth) is a Search-and-Rescue, Ecology and Assistance Campaigns Group that was founded in 1994. The group comprises volunteers and is affiliated with the Yeni Yüksektepe Cultural Foundation. Upon requests from quake survivors, team members began rescue efforts at the collapsed shopping mall.
After several hours, five people, including a 7-year-old girl, were rescued from the rubble of the Caribbean Center shopping mall, which was left by the American, Venezuelan and Icelandic rescue teams after they determined no one alive could remain under the wreckage. The shopping mall, one of the largest in Port-au-Prince, had completely collapsed on itself, its upper layers falling in on those below.
The team began searching for survivors in the ruins of the building on the afternoon of Jan. 14 local time. After a 17-hour search, the team discovered that there may be survivors and informed a UN team, asking for support. The South Florida Rescue team also joined the Turkish team on Saturday night. The Turkish team then rescued two Haitians, a 7-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man, 36 hours after beginning their search. The two said they were unhurt, but thirsty. A 40-year-old Saudi woman was also pulled out alive from the supermarket on Sunday. A relative of the woman, Fadel al-Magrabi, paid a thank you visit to the Turkish team and invited them to Mecca and Medina. “I trust the Turks. We had also told other teams that there were people alive under the wreckage. But some did not launch a search,” he told the Turkish team. The rescued woman was hospitalized and was reportedly in good condition.
A Turkish rescue mission at work trying to pull a victim out of the rubble of the killer quake which struck the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, a week ago today. Haitian quake survivors take home food distributed by Turkish rescue workers. (bottom right)
The Turkish team, together with its American counterparts, also rescued two more people early on Sunday. The head of the Turkish rescue team, Umut Dinçşahin, said the area was very crowded when they arrived, which slowed down their efforts. “Our friends exerted superhuman efforts,” he said.
The Turkish team’s success also found wide coverage on Haiti’s NBC TV channel, which called the team members heroes. Interviews with members of the Turkish team were also broadcast on CNN.
In the meantime, a doctor’s organization, known as “Yerzyüzü Doktorları” (Doctors on Earth) have also announced that the organization sent a group of doctors to Haiti to contribute to the aid efforts. On Sunday, Turkey also sent 10 tons of additional aid to Haiti. A statement by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said total aid dispatched by Turkey to Haiti has now reached 50 tons. Turkey also provided Haiti $1 million in financial aid. The 7.0-magnitude quake, Haiti’s worst in two centuries, struck on Tuesday, Jan. 12. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50,000 people died in the quake.