As the British Red Cross reported: “On Monday 6 February at 4:17am local time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey (Türkiye) near the city of Gaziantep, devastating parts of Turkey and Syria. It was followed by a series of powerful aftershocks. On the same day, at 13:24 local time, a second earthquake (M7.5) hit the Elbistan district around 80 miles north of Gaziantep. Rescuers raced to save people trapped beneath the rubble, and get shelter and support to those in Turkey and Syria who had lost their homes or were afraid to return inside. Then, on 20 February, two weeks after the first earthquake, there was another 6.4 magnitude earthquake near Antakya in Turkey (an area already severely affected by the first earthquakes), again followed by significant aftershocks. More lives were lost as further buildings collapsed. So far, it’s been reported that more than 50,000 people have died as a result of the earthquakes, with many thousands more injured.”
The Turkish Mountaineering Federation (TDF), a UIAA full member, played a significant part in the rescue operation, offering climbing equipment, volunteer resources and also financial support.
As detailed in Outside, Dr Ersan Başar (photo above), TDF President, put out an immediate appeal via WhatsApp asking for volunteers to help with the rescue efforts. As Outside reported: “The TDF could organise the necessary travel permissions from regional governors in the affected areas.” Approximately 750 TDF members from across Türkiye supported the rescue efforts. The Outside article tells the story of Polat Dede whose team, experienced in high mountain environments, pulled around 12 people alive from the rubble.
Outside continues: “The search and rescue techniques that Dede and his friends had learned from their years of mountaineering proved invaluable. So did their physical stamina from endurance training.”
The UIAA recently spoke to Dr Başar to gain a more detailed understanding of the rescue operation. He explained: “The TDF reacted as soon as the earthquake happened. We were in the field at the first opportunity. Initially our search and rescue team were deployed for ten days. For our rescue teams, significantly affected by what they witnessed, we provided a lot of psychological and well-being support. As well as being on the frontline in terms of rescue we took part in delivering aid to victims and then at a third stage directly supporting young people and organising social programmes to help a carve a pathway back to normality.”
The 2023 UIAA General Assembly will take place in Trabzon, Turkey from 20-21 October as scheduled. The draft programme and calling notice for the GA will be published in July. During the GA, the TDF will present details of its rescue operations and ongoing support to the victims of the tragedy.
The UIAA has opened its fundraising resource to collect donations which will be given to the TDF during this year’s GA.
“We thank the UIAA and the wider climbing and mountaineering community for their support,” adds Dr Başar,“donations will go towards purchasing new search and rescue equipment because a lot of our equipment was damaged or destroyed. Funds will also be spent on helping the TDF clubs directly impacted.”
All images courtesy of the TDF