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Hungarian Rescue Teams Save Several People at Earthquake Sites

Barbara Bene 2023.02.08.

Hungarian rescue teams and search dogs are continuously working at the scene of the earthquakes in Turkey, while the number of successfully evacuated people is constantly increasing, Tamás Menczer, Secretary of State for Bilateral Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told M1 news. He confirmed that there are no reported Hungarian victims or injuries in the disaster.

In terms of Hungary sending more rescue teams to the scene, the government official said that the Hunor rescue team started their work on Tuesday morning with 55 experts and two dogs. Also involved in the rescue operation since Tuesday noon are the Hungarian Baptist Aid and the Pest County Search and Rescue Service. The Life Sign rescue team joined on Tuesday night, the counter-terrorism unit on Wednesday morning, and a team from the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid is also on its way to the area worst hit by the earthquake.

Péter Farkas (L), József Kulcsár, and Ilka Kovács (daughter of State Secretary for International Communication Zoltán Kovács), members of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid’s search and rescue team at Liszt Ferenc Budapest International Airport on February 7, 2023. The seven-member team traveled with internationally certified search dogs to the site of the earthquake in Turkey. Image: MTI/Koszticsák Szilárd

Tamás Menczer noted that the “window of opportunity” in such cases, until there is a realistic chance of finding a survivor, is a very important factor. The first week is crucial in this respect. He said that 18 Hungarians were known to be in the affected area, the embassy was in contact with them, all were doing well, and no serious assistance had been requested, only minor technical aid.

The State Secretary said on Radio Kossuth’s program “Good Morning, Hungary!” that Syria had also asked for help. There, the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta has transported two clinical units deployed in the country earlier to the earthquake-hit region with a HUF 50 million government grant. They are also in contact with Christian communities with which they have been in contact in the past through the Hungary Helps program.

Meanwhile, news arrived that the team from the Hunor rescue organization has already pulled 12 survivors and 7 bodies out of the rubble in Turkey, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Directorate General told MTI on Wednesday morning. Dániel Mukics said that the team is searching the ruins of a collapsed 20-story reinforced concrete apartment building in the southeastern Turkish city of Antakya, in Hatay province, day and night in eight-hour shifts.

He added that the shift changes are necessary because of the heavy physical and mental strain. He also said that the temperature had cooled to minus 2-3 degrees Celsius overnight, both reducing the chances of survival and making the work of the rescue teams more difficult.

The government is supporting the Hungarian rescue units, which as of Tuesday evening already had 116 members, searching for survivors of the earthquake in Turkey through the Hungary Helps program, the State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry for programs to help persecuted Christians told M1 news channel. Tristan Azbej stressed that it is more difficult to send search and rescue units to Syria than to Turkey because of the civil war situation.

The Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta is helping there, and their executive vice-president Lajos Győri-Dani said that the focus on Syria is because there are far fewer search and rescue workers there than in Turkey due to the complex visa procedures. The charity also announced that it was launching a fundraising campaign to help victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Anyone can support the humanitarian action by making an online donation at adomanyozz.hu or by donating 250 forints per call to the 1350 donation line.

The southern part of Turkey was hit by two powerful earthquakes on Monday, also affecting northern Syria. The number of victims is close to 10,000 in Turkey and Syria according to Wednesday morning figures, with the World Health Organization saying that some 23 million people could be affected in the whole by the disaster.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three month state of emergency for the 10 quake-hit regions, and also declared a week long mourning period. Furthermore, he will travel to the affected areas on Wednesday to inspect the damage.

Dozens of countries have offered assistance so far, and help is greatly needed now in Turkey. Some of the disaster-hit areas are hard to reach and there is news that people are asking for help from underneath the rubble but no one can help them. Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker reported from Gaziantep, one of the most affected regions, that at some locations there it is no longer a rescue operation, but a recovery. In an attempt to get help, many victims buried under the rubble have turned to social media when possible, uploading videos and voice messages, and giving their location.

Featured photo via Hunor rescue organization (Facebook/National Disaster Management Directorate General)

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