Shropshire Star

'Street by street': Firefighter from Telford tells of Turkey earthquake search and rescue operation

A Telford man is among fire service personnel from the West Midlands who are in Turkey to assist with the search operation following the devastating earthquake – as the death toll continues to rise.

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An image from the scene sent to West Midlands Fire Service. Photo: WMFS

Members of West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) – who are volunteer members of UK International Search and Rescue (UKISAR) – arrived in the country this week.

And they have been on the ground helping those in need alongside other members of the team from the UK, as well as specialists from other countries who have responded.

Mark Davey, who is part of the technical rescue unit at WMFS and is from Telford, said it had taken a lot of organisation to get to Antakya, in the Hatay province, due to the amount of destruction caused to basic infrastructure by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake – with the death toll surpassing 19,000.

Images from the scene. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

He told the Associated Press: "Transportation is very difficult here, so it took a lot of organisation to get enough vehicles to bring us. It took a long while to get a lot of the equipment over here on the vehicles, on buses. (We had) a lot of help from the local people as well – from bus companies."

Mr Davey explained the crew would conduct an assessment of the destroyed area street by street before sending the information back to the rescue team's command and control.

"The whole area has already been sectorised by our team and the other teams, (including) Italy (and) Istanbul - there's many teams here. I believe there is 33 or 40 search and rescue teams here," he said.

Images from the scene. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

"We are logically going through the area, street by street, gathering as much information as possible so we can send that back to our command and control, so we organise the teams to come back with specific tools and actually prioritise each of the areas.

"Hopefully, (we'll) have some good news and get those people back and, repatriate, obviously with their loved ones, with their families."

Another British aid worker assisting the search operation in Antakya had captured on his phone the incredible moment a nine-year-old girl was pulled uninjured from the rubble of her home where she had been trapped for 60 hours.

Atiqur Rahman, from Stoke-on-Trent, had been working for Global Relief Trust when the earthquake struck. He described the current situation in the southern Turkish city as "Armageddon".

Around 70 volunteers from the UK have joined the search and rescue effort.

"Now it's 64 or 65 hours since the earthquake, the chances of people coming out alive is very low," he told a national newspaper.

"But you have these amazing cases where, because the buildings have collapsed layer by layer, people manage to get into gaps.

"There was some noise coming from this family under the rubble, and some relatives stood outside as they knew the family was there.

"When they were carried out they were conscious and moving, obviously traumatised, but physically they were unharmed. One of our guys carried them out and the girl was responding to him."

The first 7.8-magnitude quake hit the Turkish city of Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday, reducing thousands of homes and buildings across the south of the country and northern Syria to rubble as people slept.

A series of aftershocks has left tens of thousands injured and survivors are feared trapped under thousands of collapsed buildings.

Relief efforts have been hampered by damaged infrastructure, freezing winter temperatures and limited medical facilities.