Members of Germany’s ISAR rescue team warm up by a bonfire in Kirikhan, Turkey, February 10, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
Rescue teams from Germany and Austria working in the Turkish province of Hatay, the most affected by this week’s earthquakes that have devastated southern Turkey and northwestern Syria, announced this Saturday the suspension of their operations for a increased threats to the security of its members, either due to the growing tension among the local population due to the slow arrival of aid or due to sporadic clashes between armed groups.
“In the last hours, the security situation in the province of Hatay has worsened,” they said in a joint statement, collected by DPA, the German Federal Agency for Technical Assistance and the humanitarian organization ISAR Germany.
Their teams are now at a joint base in the city of Kirikhan and in the midst of a tense situation that they attribute to, among other factors, “a shortage of food and problems in the supply of water to the area affected by the earthquake.”
“Grief is slowly giving way to anger,” warned ISAR’s director of operations, Steven Bayer. However, both organizations have assured that they will reactivate their teams if they receive information that there are survivors under the rubble.
Members of ISAR Germany (International Search and Rescue) react after rescuing a woman named Zeynep in Kirikhan, Turkey February 10, 2023. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
Hours earlier, the Austrian Army also announced the suspension of its rescue operations in Hatay, this time after verifying clashes between unidentified armed groups.
“The aggression between the factions in Turkey is increasing,” Colonel Pierre Kugelweis explained to the official Austrian news agency APA, after acknowledging that he had received reports of shootings in the area.
Hatay is the province most affected by the earthquake in Turkey, bordering northwestern Syria, where some 900 people have died and more than 1,200 buildings have ended up destroyed, according to the Turkish regime. It is also home to some 400,000 Syrian refugees from the war in the neighboring country.
Demonstrators use smoke grenades during a pro-Kurdish demonstration against Turkey’s military action against Kurdish positions in northern Syria and northern Iraq, and against the banning of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in Berlin, Germany 26 March. November 2022. REUTERS/Christian Mang/File
Although the Army does not identify these groups, the province has been the occasional scene of clashes between the Turkish Army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerrillas, which have been at war with Ankara for decades.
“The success of saving lives does not bear a reasonable relationship with the security risks,” added the colonel, leading a contingent of 82 military rescuers.
However, he also wanted to point out that there has been no direct attack against the mission, which will remain in place until the situation improves. “The fact is that the circumstances are what they are,” he declared.
(With information from Europa Press)
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