Local volunteers join rescue efforts amid frantic search for survivors in Turkey

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Rescue efforts in Marash, Turkey, on February 8, 2023, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Rescue efforts in Marash, Turkey, on February 8, 2023, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

MARASH, Turkey — Eren sent his wife, kids and in-laws to Istanbul after a massive earthquake demolished whole neighborhoods of his hometown of Marash, and then turned around and came back to help in the recovery efforts.

“I had to help and I couldn’t do that if I was worrying about the safety of my wife and children,” he tells The Times of Israel, speaking in accented but fluent English.

Eren, who declines to give his last name, says his family lived in a newer part of the city so while they acutely felt the tremor, their home was spared. But that wasn’t the case in the central neighborhood where Eren used to live and where a number of friends and acquaintances still live.

“My university professor lived in that building,” he says, pointing to a fully collapsed multistory apartment building. “They think he’s still inside.”

Eren is one of the many people who either live in Marash or just came to help, who have no proper training but are willing to do whatever is asked of them to assist rescue workers in their missions.

Some are taking on the work entirely themselves, grabbing shovels, pickaxes, sledgehammers and light power tools to extricate the remains of people trapped in the rubble. But even with this concerted effort, it will likely take weeks if not months to sort through the debris.

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