The death toll from a massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria rose above 11,200 on Wednesday as rescuers raced to save survivors trapped under debris in the winter cold.
The Philippines on Wednesday deployed an 85-person response team, as 33 personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines joined 33 health care workers from the Department of Health (DOH), 12 rescue personnel from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and eight firefighters from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority headed for Turkey.
A Filipino community leader in Turkey told ABS-CBN that three Filipinos were among those missing after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude tremor.
Turkish officials and medics said 8,574 people had died in Turkey and 2,662 in Syria from the powerful earthquake, bringing the total to 11,236.
Nearly 50,000 people were also injured in Turkey and another 5,000 in Syria, officials and rescuers on both sides said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave an update on the casualty figures during a visit to Kahramanmaras, a southern Turkish city at the epicentre of the initial quake.
Television images showed him hugging a weeping, elderly woman and walking through a large crowd towards a Red Crescent humanitarian relief tent.
Facing a tough May 14 re-election, Erdogan pledged to rebuild the damaged regions within a year.
He also appeared to push back against criticism that the government’s response to Turkey’s worst disaster in decades has been slow.
“Initially there were issues at airports and on the roads, but today things are getting easier and tomorrow it will be easier still,” he said in televised remarks.
“We have mobilized all our resources,” he added. “The state is doing its job.”
MMDA acting Chairman Romando Artes said the MMDA team was composed of well-trained disaster rescuers who were previously deployed to help in the rescue and retrieval operations in Bohol, Nepal, and Pampanga which were also hit by earthquakes in 2013, 2015, and 2019 respectively. With AFP
The group will conduct the mission in Turkey along with officers from the Office of the Civil Defense, Department of Health, Philippine Army, and the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
“The ambassador of Turkey requested the team’s deployment along with rescuers from other concerned government agencies. The contingent will be transported by Turkish Airlines at no cost,” Artes said.
The MMDA is in close coordination with the OCD for the transport, logistics requirements, and other preparations necessary for assistance to the earthquake-hit country, Artes added.
The agency will also provide the team’s winter clothes to keep them warm as the temperature in Turkey is at four degrees Celsius.
The team will stay for an undetermined number of days in Southern Turkey near the Syrian border to assist in the ongoing rescue operations in earthquake affected areas and will bring with them portable search and rescue tools such as life locator and v-strut, which can locate victims under rubble of collapsed structures.
The MMDA chief said this mission will be a valuable experience for the team as they will be working alongside rescuers from other countries. The agency, he said, is continuously increasing its capabilities in preparation for the “Big One” here.
DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said 31 health emergency responders are part of the Philippine contingent.
The 31-man team is composed of health professionals from two DOH Hospitals, namely: Dr. Jose Natalio Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital.
The DOH team is composed of doctors, nurses, medical technologists, and medical professionals.
As part of their deployment, the DOH team, bringing 16 tons of medical and rescue operations equipment, will assist in the ongoing rescue operations in Turkey. With AFP