[Since Day 1 of the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria (February 6), Umut-Sen volunteers have worked side by side with mineworkers of Turkey in Iskenderun and Samandag (in the city of Antakya), Elbistan in the city of Maras, and the cities of Adiyaman and Malatya. Below is the translation of an Umut-Sen volunteer’s report from Day 4 (February 9) in Samandag, Antakya. The situation has changed since, but not for the better. While many people and animals have been rescued alive by independent search and rescue teams such as the ones mineworkers and Umut-Sen volunteers formed, currently, mineworkers and construction workers are still the only (non-foreign) competent search and rescue teams in the region. The state-led search and rescue operation teams—known as AFAD—continue to try and stop them from rescuing those who might still be alive under the rubble and from evacuating the deceased while protecting their bodily integrity. The Turkish state and AFAD insist on removing the rubble with earth diggers, denying tens of thousands of people hope, or the right to a funeral. The struggle between the state forces and several independent volunteer teams continues on the ground, as does the hope of rescuing more people alive.]
A group of our comrades left for the disaster area in early hours of February 6th. They are currently coordinating with miners on rescue missions and distributing essential needs on the ground. We’re relaying their reports from an area with no cell service and power:
“We’re in Hatay Samandag, and there’s no cell service… I’m writing as I make my way alongside the miners to different rubbles.
The situation here is catastrophic. There are 30 miners here, and they were stopped before they could even enter the city. Everyone is asking for help because virtually no official rescue team has reached here. AFAD doesn’t have any control over the area. Miners have rescued people in mere hours that the officials have spent two days failing to do so. Miners are now split into groups of 3-5-8. We’re with them. They have no time to stop and take a breath.
WE URGENTLY NEED EMERGENCY RESCUE TEAMS HERE.
Samandag is the southernmost tip of Hatay, located slightly outside the city. Because the roads are closed and the inclement weather intervenes, rescue teams are yet to reach here. The Independent Miners’ Union’s call to Turkish Coal Corporations (TKI) is urgent and must be spread. If we can pressure mining corporations to get the miners to the impacted areas, rescue missions will speed up significantly.
We urgently need emergency rescue teams here. There are cranes but no operators; there are voices crying for help from the rubble but no rescue teams to reach them. We’re overstretched. There’s no state presence, no local government. The firefighters are only bringing sledgehammers.
We’re digging out the dead bodies of people who were known to be responsive as early as this morning. We’re reaching them too late even though every second counts. All miners should be directed here, and rescue missions must speed up.There’s no water, no food, not even bread. Whatever we have is limited, and people are dying. There’s constant aftershock. At least %60 of Samandag has collapsed, and the rest will join them during these aftershocks.
Help may be directed to Iskenderun and Antakya, but it appears that the southern parts of the city are neglected in these aid flows. Most of the emergency aid is dropped off at Iskenderun, so on the way here; help teams exhaust their resources there and return. Antakya and Samandag, further from Iskenderun, are left to their own devices as a result.
We’ve been to Iskenderun, and their situation was dire. We need to make this clear: things are indescribably worse in Samandag. There are long lines for bread and water; people go hungry, people are hopeless. We spot a tweet asking for help, for instance, and we head for the area. We find absolutely no one there, just a couple of neighbors waiting around for their friends at best. The scale of this is far bigger than what it’s made out to be…”
[This article was resposted from Umut-Sen's website on 10 February 2023. Umut-Sen [Union of Hope] is an entirely independent socialist organization with its members spread across Turkey and beyond. It is run by political organizers and workers. Umut-Sen supports worker-led strikes, protests, and independent labor unions only. Umut-Sen members also form and (if they already exist) join rescue and relief efforts on the ground after every disaster in Turkey, natural or industrial.]