Turkish Miners Rush To Help Quake Victims

'Our hearts can't take this': Turkish miners rush to help earthquake victims

Turkish miners are no strangers to disasters.


When miner Ismail Hakki Kalkan saw people buried under the rubble of an earthquake in Turkey, he ran to help despite living on the opposite side of the tragedy-stricken country.

Kalkan, who has been a miner for eight years, said he feels he has more experience than most jobs digging through rough terrain because Turkish miners are no strangers to disasters.

“When we watched what was happening here on TV, we knew we had to be here and we came,” said the miner from Zonguldak province on the Black Sea.

Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed nearly 22,000 people along a region of southeastern Turkey and parts of Syria.

That’s too much for Kalkan.

“Our hearts cannot accept this,” he told AFP, wearing black boots and a high-visibility jacket.

He is one of about 30 miners wearing dusty white and yellow helmets in the ancient city of Antakya trying to find survivors trapped under the rubble.

Antakya is in Hatay province, one of the hardest hit places in Turkey.

Turkey, a coal producer, suffered its worst coal mining disaster in 2014, which killed more than 300 people in the western town of Soma.

Late last year, dozens of people were killed in a similar incident in Amasra, near Zonguldak.

Kalkan’s colleagues stood upright with picks, shovels, sledgehammers, saws and crowbars – their everyday tools prepared to save lives.

Another miner carried large wire cutters on his shoulders.

‘Words can’t describe this’

Turgay Acikgoz understands the extreme conditions and emotional turmoil that such disasters cause for rescuers.

“Mining disasters happen frequently,” he said.

“We know what this pain feels like, because we’ve been through this pain… No words can describe it,” the miner said.

Older members of the group recall the 2010 tragedy in Zonguldak, when 30 miners were killed in an explosion.

The most recent incident last year left four miners injured, two seriously, just three weeks after the Amasra incident that killed 42 people in a similar explosion, just 50 kilometers away.

In Antakya, miners spend most of their time on a major boulevard, where cars glide through the rubble of collapsed buildings.

They headed towards a building that was only in ruins. Distressed survivors told miners that some may be under large cracked pieces of cement and scrap metal.

A mechanical excavator is helping to clear the debris.

The team leader from Zonguldak mine asked the operator to stop hammering the concrete.

Wearing a white helmet covered with dust, his head asked for a blanket.

They had just discovered the body of a child lying in their bed.

Lose hope

A grieving father wearing a black hat and scarf carries the body away, holding his son tightly in his arms.

A few meters away, a woman with a painted face stood next to her daughter.

Nesibe Kulubecioglu instructs the miners. Her mother-in-law, 80, lives in the same building as her son’s family, just one floor apart.

Kulubecioglu and her daughter fled to safety after the earthquake hit around 4:00 a.m. (01:00 GMT) on Monday, but they have lost six loved ones.

She no longer hopes to find anyone alive and blames the government and the slow arrival of rescuers.

But the mother was reassured when she saw the Black Sea miners. With their help, she hopes to have a body to rest in peace.

Only then will she mourn and think about the future.

“First we have to find a place to bury them and then start over.”

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)

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