‘I Started to Believe in Miracles:’ Kazakh Rescuers Share Stories of Resilience from Türkiye Earthquake

ASTANA – After 12 consecutive days of digging through rubble to find survivors in Nurdağı town in Türkiye, 15 rescuers from the Karagandy Region Department of Emergency Situations shared their stories of resilience and miraculous survival with the press on Feb. 21, the Kazinform news agency reported.

The rescue team was warmly welcomed by family and friends. Photo credit: gov.kz.

The rescuers’ team raced against time to work through the rubble to save 11 people and provided first aid medical assistance to 90 more people at the Disaster Medicine Center.

They departed for Türkiye on Feb. 8 as part of the second unit of Kazakh rescuers. Upon arrival in Gaziantep province, they were relocated to Nurdağı.

In the evening that same day, the rescuers had begun breaking through layers of debris of the six-storey building when they heard a woman’s voice.

“While scouting the basement room, we heard a woman’s voice,” said the head of the second rescue unit Ruslan Soyko. “With the help of an interpreter, we could roughly locate the two women. They were describing their surroundings and where the sounds were coming from. It turned out they lived on the second floor, but when the plates began to move, they fell to the basement. A small space was created there, which allowed them to survive. The victims were sitting in a corner. When they saw us, of course, they got excited and asked for water.”

Photo credit: Ministry of Emergency Situations of Kazakhstan.

The women they found turned out to be a mother and a daughter. They had been under the rubble for 93 hours.

In another selfless rescue attempt, the team released a 60-year-old man trapped in the remains of the same building.

“When we were looking for those women, we managed to find another person. Duman Khamzin [rescue team member] heard heavy breathing in the basement. Eventually, we found a man in his 60s with his arm and leg clamped in the doorway. He turned out to be deaf-mute. We pulled him out and handed him over to the medics,” said rescuer Sergei Tarynin.

But the story does not end there. “On the last day of work, a man came to us looking for his brother. We asked him for his photo and recognized the man we had saved. This incident made me believe in miracles,” said Tarynin.

Still, with tens of thousands dead, it was a small glimpse of joy in an ocean of mourning. The rescuers admit that the most mentally demanding part of the job was extracting the bodies from under the rubble.

Fifteen people of the second unit of Kazakh rescuers arrived in Karagandy from Nurdağı town in Türkiye on Feb. 20. Photo credit: gov.kz.

“The hardest part is informing people about the deaths of their relatives. It was tough to tell one mother that her son died under the rubble. And it was also heartbreaking to see children mourning their relatives,” said doctor Almagul Aldabekova.

As rescuers continued to work around the clock to pull more survivors from the debris, they picked up household objects – the remnants of lives interrupted by the earthquake.

“During debris removal and reconnaissance, we found various things, including safes and valuables, and immediately handed them to local colleagues. There was an interesting case when we found a cage with parrots under the rubble. The cage was a bit crumpled, but the birds were not hurt. Their owners immediately took them away,” said the rescuers.

Kazakhstan sent aid to affected areas in both Türkiye and Syria. The latest 55 tons of additional humanitarian assistance consignment was prepared on Feb. 15.

The first unit that assisted in the Turkish city of Gaziantep landed in Almaty on Feb. 18.

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