ASTANA — Nearly two weeks later, the Kazakh rescuers who went on a mission to help Türkiye cope with the aftermath of the Feb. 6 deadly earthquake returned home, with the first unit that assisted in the Turkish city of Gaziantep landing in Almaty on Feb. 18, the press service of the Kazakh Ministry of Emergency Situations reported.
The second group arrived in Astana from Nurdağı on Feb. 20.
Rescue work was also underway in the Hatay province and Kahramanmaraş, the epicenter of the first earthquake.
The two Kazakh echelons carrying health workers from the Disaster Medicine Center and canine teams were among the first to depart for Türkiye and immediately start search and rescue operations.
“On the first day, we did not sleep at all,” said Vladimir Tsoy, the national search and rescue team leader. “It was tough, aftershocks continued, and rescuers risked their lives.”
The teams dismantled over 250,000 cubic meters of rubble using engineering and rescue equipment and entrenching tools. They crawled through narrow openings and crevices through piles of collapsed building structures and remnants of household furniture.
As of Feb. 20, the teams have rescued seven people and found the bodies of 88 victims, including ten children. Health workers assisted more than 200 locals, among them 30 children.
“Seeing people in pain moved me to tears. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the Turkish people. I saw pain, fear, and horror in their eyes. We supported each other like never before,” said health worker Aina Sapakova.
Kazakh Minister of Emergency Situations Yuriy Ilyin and Turkish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Ufuk Ekici met rescuers at the airport in Astana. They thanked each of them for their hard work, calling their actions professional, heroic, and productive.
The Kazakh rescuers who participated in the search and rescue efforts in Türkiye will be awarded, announced the country’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Feb. 15 during his working visit to the Akmola Region.
At President Tokayev’s decision, the Kazakh government provided $1 million in urgent aid to earthquake victims in Türkiye and 55 tons of additional humanitarian assistance. Another 50 tons of humanitarian aid was provided to earthquake-struck Syria through the Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS).