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‘They were like family’: Albania rescuers ‘in anguish’ after Türkiye quakes

An Albanian search and rescue team expressed how emotionally painful it was as they took part in relief operations in Türkiye, which was hit by twin earthquakes on February 6.

The 10-member volunteer team arrived in Türkiye to participate in search and rescue efforts in the city of Malatya until February 15.

Nebi Mucay, the leader of the team, said they were very emotional, especially when they found a dead father and son hugging each other under the rubble.

“The most touching event — not only for me, but for all the team members — was the eternal embrace of the father and son under the rubble. It was very painful for everyone,” Mucay recalled. 

“We witnessed this endless embrace.”

He added that they felt so connected and shared the pain that the victims were like their family members.

“Honestly, it’s like he’s part of our family. It was really painful,” said Mucay.

On another occasion, the team got emotional when they found a photo of a newly married couple, he said.

”Seeing that happiness, that smile mixed into the rubble, the stones in that picture, that life is precious. It makes me think. That picture is etched in my memory, I feel like it’s in my heart,” said Mucay.

READ MORE: Erdogan: More than 1.68M quake-affected people provided shelter

‘We can save life by removing stone’

Another volunteer, Skelzen Satri, said they were deeply touched when they saw a father wrap his son with his hands to protect him while he was being pulled from the rubble.

Every day while at the earthquake zone, the team started their routine by saying a praying, invoking God that they would be able to save lives, Satri said. 

Bujar Rapo, another rescuer, said that he “will never forget” how one earthquake survivor desperately called on his phone his brother, who was under the rubble. 

“Unfortunately, his lifeless body was found later,” Rapo said.

A total of 73 medical personnel and search and rescue specialists affiliated with the Albanian Ministry of Defense and the National Civil Protection Agency took part in the relief operations in southeastern Türkiye.

READ MORE: How Turkish volunteers helped earthquake survivors cope amid devastation

SaR operations

At the height of the search and rescue operation, more than 249,000 personnel were on the ground, according to the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD).

More than 11,000 international search and rescue teams also participated in the operations.

In all, around 100 countries offered assistance to Türkiye, with many having sent rescue teams.

At least 41,156 people were killed and 105,505 injured by the two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye on February 6, officials said Monday

In Syria, at least 5,800 people were also reported killed, bringing the death toll in both countries close to 47,000.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes, centered in the Kahramanmaras province, affected more than 13 million people across 11 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa and Elazig.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the strong tremors that struck Türkiye in less than 10 hours.

READ MORE: Why does earthquake prediction remain impossible?

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