Chinese rescue teams, assistance arrive in Turkey, Syria
Race against time to save lives with cutting-edge quake warning system
Published: Feb 08, 2023 10:47 AM Updated: Feb 08, 2023 08:00 PM
Peyami Kalyoncu, consul general of Turkish Consulate General in Hong Kong SAR visited members of Ramunion, the first Chinese civilian rescue team sent to Turkey to help the earthquake rescue, at HK airport on February 7, 2023 when members transit from HK to Turkey. Photo: Courtesy of Ramunion

Peyami Kalyoncu, consul general of Turkish Consulate General in Hong Kong SAR visited members of Ramunion, the first Chinese civilian rescue team sent to Turkey to help the earthquake rescue, at HK airport on February 7, 2023 when members transit from HK to Turkey. Photo: Courtesy of Ramunion

In a move displaying its international responsibility in the face of catastrophe, China continues offering assistance to earthquake-struck Turkey and Syria with its rescue teams, consisting of hundreds of members and a cutting-edge earthquake rescue system, arriving on Wednesday to race against time to save lives.

The death toll of devastating quakes in southern Turkey and Syria rose to more than 11,000 as of Wednesday, making the quake the one of the deadliest in more than a decade, according to the Associated Press. Rescue workers are dig through rubble amid freezing weather to save as many lives as possible. 

Media reported that more than 8,000 people in Turkey alone had died of the earthquake as of Tuesday. International support and offers of aid have been pouring into Turkey and Syria.

China announced on Wednesday plans to provide 40 million yuan ($5.9 million) emergency aid to Turkey, including urgently needed rescue materials, and another 30 million yuan to Syria, which including $2 million in cash aid and urgently needed relief supplies. Meanwhile, 220 tons of wheat is on its way to Syria, and the remaining 3,000 tons of rice and wheat will soon be shipped in two wholesale shipments.

A Chinese rescue team, consisting of 82 members, arrived at Turkey's Adana Sakirpasa Airport on Wednesday morning. 

The team was dispatched by the Chinese government, and it gathered people from the Beijing fire and rescue corps, National Earthquake Response Support Service and a hospital. Members brought with them 21 tons of equipment for rescue, communication and medical purposes - as well as four rescue dogs.

The team will help find survivors, offer medical help, establish "mobile hospitals" and so forth, according to media reports.

Several civilian rescue teams also arrived in Turkey on Wednesday, including eight members of Ramunion, a Zhejiang-based rescue union. More members from this union will join in the next few days, the Global Times learned.

About 120 people from China's Blue Sky Rescue also arrived on Wednesday and more are expected to arrive on Thursday, Zhang Yong, leader and founder of the team, told the Global Times.

Members from the Blue Sky Rescue brought with them an earthquake rescue and alarm system. The system was developed by a Chengdu-based Institute of Care-Life, the China Earthquake Administration and other laboratories. It can automatically connect to rescue workers' interphones before destructive secondary waves arrive and warn them to leave, according to an explanation of the system sent to the Global Times by Institute of Care-Life. 

This is the first time this system is being used in disaster relief outside of China, said the institute. 

Zhang said the team had evaluated the risks of the rescue work. Aftershocks are the top concern, because the magnitudes of the principal shocks were high and it is possible that high-magnitude aftershocks are to follow. He also worried about the freezing temperatures and blizzards, which may further complicate the rescue work.

There are other factors such as conflicts, since the earthquake-struck region has been beset by military conflicts for years. 

In 36 hours after the major quake struck, Turkey was hit by more than 100 aftershocks of magnitude 4 and greater, media reported on Tuesday. According to the United States Geological Survey, these seismic movements are minor readjustments along the portion of a fault that slipped at the time of the main quake. The frequency of these aftershocks decreases with time.

He from Ramunion said that his members will cooperate with other international teams, sharing equipment and so forth, as the Ramunion members used civilian flights, which don't allow large-scale rescue equipment on board. 

"The things we brought are enough to support our rescue work for one week. We need to do our utmost to save as many lives as possible," said He. 

On Tuesday, China promised to provide the first batch of emergency aid worth 40 million yuan to Turkey.

In Syria, most of the casualties were in the northwest of the country, according to the state news agency, SANA. The region is already struggling to rebuild vital infrastructure heavily damaged during the country's civil war. 

It's a "crisis in the crisis," El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, told CNN on Monday.

However, getting aid to all parts of war-battered Syria is fraught with daunting political and logistical challenges due to US sanctions on the country. However, the US and its allies have so far resisted attempts at creating a political opening by way of the disaster response. 

In response, Mao Ning, spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a Wednesday briefing that the US' long-standing intervention into Syria's crisis, plus its harsh economic sanctions, have resulted large number of civilian deaths in Syria. 

The US still forcibly occupies major oil-producing regions in this country, which add fuel to fire of the humanitarian crisis.

"In face of the catastrophe, the US should cast aside geopolitical obsessions, immediately lift unilateral sanctions on Syria and open the doors to humanitarian aid," said Mao. 

Photo: Blue Sky Rescue

Photo: Blue Sky Rescue