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France fire-fighters in awe of Turkiye hospitality

March 10, 2023 at 3:03 pm

Firefighters extinguish a fire erupted at the rubble of a factory after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkiye [Gökhan Balcı / Anadolu Agency]

Members of the French NGO International Emergency Fire-fighters (PUI) received a text message just as the first of two earthquakes jolted southern Turkiye on 6 February, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Volunteers ready to go to Kahramanmaras province were asked to inform their managers of their availability, and a team of 36 volunteer fire-fighters left France on a plane to Turkiye.

Members of this team, Stephane Giacoletto and Jean-Francois Gati told Anadolu about their 8-day-mission in Turkiye.

The pair said they were experienced and had already attended such operations in Indonesia and Japan.

“When we arrived in Kahramanmaras, we saw people on the streets, under blankets, in extremely low temperatures, in front of their collapsed houses, expecting to find members of their families,” Giacoletto said.

The locals gave them information so that they could locate people trapped under the rubble.

READ: Rehabilitation of quake victims a lengthy, costly process – Pakistan social worker

“We worked hand in hand, we thought they were a part of our group,” he added.

Jean-Francois Gati, a retired fire-fighter from Cannes in southern France, said that “the Turks brought food, to express their gratitude, despite their pain.”

“It warms my heart to think about it again; I have tears in my eyes, it was so intense,” he continued, adding that those people “had nothing, but gave everything.”

“There will be a before and an after Turkiye, thanks to these powerful – and humanely unforgettable – eight days,” his co-worker Giacoletto added.


PUI teams did their best to evacuate as many survivors as they could from the rubble.

“It’s our duty, we only did our job,” the fire-fighters said, responding to people hailing them as heroes.

READ: UAE sends telecommunication equipment to quake-hit Turkiye

“Despite the big aftershocks which frightened us, we managed to save two people: an 11-year-old girl and a 62-year-old woman,” the fire-fighters said, adding that this was the “biggest reward”.

Role of Turkish Airlines

The 36-member French team, with three rescue dogs, went back to France on a Turkish Airlines’ plane after eight days.

The Airline offered them this flight and helped the team with the administrative process.

“It’s the first time that a company offered such a kind gesture,” the fire-fighters said, adding that the Company truly facilitated the administrative process, including the transfer of their equipment.

On 6 February, two powerful quakes struck southern Turkiye.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 tremors were centred in Kahramanmaras and rocked 10 other provinces – Hatay, Gaziantep, Adiyaman, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Kilis, Osmaniye, Sanliurfa and Elazig. Some 13.5 million people have been affected by the devastating quakes.

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

More than 46,100 people were killed by the back-to-back quakes in Turkiye, according to the latest official figures. Thousands of others were injured.

READ: Arab world shows unprecedented solidarity with quake-hit Turkiye