American rescuers just home in the US after relief efforts in Türkiye praised the hospitality of people affected by the recent earthquakes.
Speaking to reporters in the state of Virginia in the wee hours of Tuesday, Andrew Johnson, a hazmat specialist, said he found it challenging to be in Türkiye for relief efforts in the quakes’ aftermath.
“It was a very tough thing to experience. I can imagine it is much more difficult for the people of Türkiye,” he said.
Johnson said he had many meaningful moments during his mission in Adiyaman, but “the biggest thing” was the hospitality of Turkish people “even in those moments,” referring to the aftermath of the earthquakes.
“They were hospitable people offering food or free drinks and beverages, offering resources, being a helping hand. I’ve never experienced that gravity of a loss.
“And I couldn’t imagine like how to react watching them serve us, as we served them. It was really moving,” he added.
They were back home on Monday night and were welcomed in a ceremony after their work in Adiyaman, one of the 11 provinces affected by the quakes on February 6.
More than 41,000 people have died in the twin earthquakes centred in Kahramanmaras, the epicentre of the 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude jolts, according to the latest figures.
Bartlett said her team worked with the Turkish military and also NGOs, saying: “They were all fantastic.”
Bartlett said there were people in every collapsed building they went to, adding that “everybody was very appreciative that we were there and wanted our assistance.”
Hospitality in the face of loss
Kristi Bartlett, a canine handler working for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, called people in Türkiye “amazing.”
“Everybody was very friendly to us (and) the dogs. The people were just very generous. Everybody was handing out water to each other, and just everybody was really amazing,” Bartlett told reporters after the welcoming ceremony.
Bartlett and her rescue dog, Ivan, were part of a group of US rescuers who landed in Türkiye on February 8 to join relief efforts after two powerful earthquakes in the country’s south.
Paul Serzan, a K9 specialist and part of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, said he saw a lot of community involvement during the relief efforts.
He called Turkish people “very resilient” in the face of the quakes.
“There were people cooking on the side of the street for the masses. There was water (bottle) drops everywhere. There are people trying to just help each other,” said Serzan, who also said people helped them direct rescue workers to save their loved ones under the rubble.
Nearly 90 members of the department returned home after the rescue mission.