A team of rescue workers from Albania described how emotionally “agonizing” it was for them to discover victims amid the rubble during their search and rescue efforts in Türkiye’s southeast region following the devastating Feb. 6 earthquakes.
“We were very emotional, especially when we found a dead father and son hugging each other under the rubble,” said Nebi Mucay, the head of the 10-member volunteer team that had arrived in the city of Malatya to help with the search and rescue efforts until Feb. 15.
"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 told reporters on Monday.
“First, we saw the child's hand, and as we continued to dig slowly, the father's body emerged too. Just like the love and care a father shows his child in daily life. We witnessed this endless embrace,'' said Mucay.
He explained his crew felt “so connected” and experienced pain as if the victims were their own family members.
"Honestly, it's like he's part of our family. It was really painful,'' Mucay said.
Mucay shared that another emotional moment for the Albanian rescuers was when they found a photo of a newly married couple.
''When I saw the picture, it struck my heart. At that moment, I thought that life was sacred and temporary. Seeing that happiness, that smile mixed into the rubble, and the stones in that picture; all made me think that life is precious. That picture is etched in my memory, I feel like it's in my heart,'' Mucay recounted.
Another volunteer, Skelzen Satri, said the team was “deeply touched” when they saw a father wrapping his son with his hands to protect him while he was being pulled from the wreckage.
“We started work by praying to God to save lives,” Satri explained. "I was happy to be able to reach the place where we were going to carry out search and rescue operations as soon as possible and to extract the living from the rubble."
Bujar Rapo, also with the team, said they alluded to the famous phrase "Plant a tree, give life" in the earthquake zone often. "We can save a life by removing a stone,” he said.
''I will never forget an earthquake survivor who desperately called his brother under the rubble on the phone. Unfortunately, his lifeless body was found later.”
A team 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 southern Türkiye.
Immediately after the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes struck the region, Türkiye issued a level 4 alert calling for international aid.
Over 249,000 search and rescue personnel are currently working in the field, according to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).
Over 9,000 international search and rescue teams have participated in the post-quake operations.
Around 100 countries have offered assistance so far, with many having sent rescue teams, as well as humanitarian relief and aid supplies.
The death toll in the aftermath has steadily risen since Feb. 6, hitting 41,156 on Monday while injuries topped 108,000. The tremors centered in Kahramanmaraş province impacted over 13 million people across 10 other provinces, including Adana, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Şanlıurfa and Elazığ.
Neighboring Syria, too, took the more significant damage after Türkiye, reporting over 5,800 casualties and at least 14,000 injuries. (Daily Sabah)