On February 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southeast of Turkey, near the Syrian border, causing widespread destruction. Massive aftershocks followed in its wake. The earthquake tragically claimed the lives of over 46,000 people and left around 108,000 injured. Moreover, it caused the collapse or critical damage of over 160,000 buildings, including hospitals, schools, and public buildings.

The earthquake had a profound impact not only on the locals but also on people worldwide. Those who had relatives or people they knew in Adıyaman, Hatay, Kahramanmaraş, Kilis, Osmaniye, Gaziantep, Malatya, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Elazığ and Adana were left traumatised and grieving, as they lost their loved ones and homes.

The destruction of public facilities, including hospitals and schools, made it challenging to provide aid to the injured and affected people, exacerbating the crisis. The survivors struggled to cope with the loss of their homes, livelihoods, and loved ones, emphasising the psychological impact of such a disaster.

According to the BBC, the collision of the Arabian plate with the Anatolian plate resulted in the catastrophic earthquake. However, the inadequate construction of buildings that failed to meet appropriate safety standards amplified the extent of the disaster. In addition, the BBC reported that “this incident occurred in the early hours of the morning, when people were inside and sleeping,” leading to an even higher loss of life.

The aftermath of the earthquake required significant support and aid from both local and international agencies to rebuild the affected areas and support the affected communities. This is where Romania, in particular, stepped up.

(For more about AISB’s response to the earthquake, read it here on The Bite.)

Romania’s Aid for Turkey

After the devastating earthquake struck Turkey and Syria, causing massive destruction and the loss of thousands of lives, many countries from all over the world offered their support and assistance. Romania quickly stepped up to provide aid and help in any way possible, sending financial aid, providing housing, food, medical assistance, and dispatching search and rescue teams to assist Turkey.

Within hours of the earthquake, President Klaus Iohannis expressed his support and condolences: “Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families after the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria. On behalf of Romania, I convey sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. Romania stands in solidarity with those affected by this tragedy.”

The Romanian Government declared that it would be sending two rescue teams composed of 52 professionals to contribute to the relief effort, highlighting the country’s commitment to international solidarity and humanitarianism. Romania’s active participation in providing aid demonstrates its responsibility as a member of the global community, ready to lend a hand to those in need.

The Experience of the Romanian Rescue Team

Within hours of the earthquake striking, the RO-USAR team consisting of about 60 people was dispatched to Türkiye to join local responders, military, volunteers, and other international search and rescue teams in the effort to find survivors and provide medical care. The Romanian team, which included military personnel, medical professionals, structural engineers, and dog handlers, was specifically trained and equipped for search and rescue operations.

Both Romanian rescue teams were deployed in the Hatay region, where they faced numerous challenges including limited access to essential resources such as food, fuel, and sanitation facilities. However, the teams worked tirelessly to extract a man who had been trapped for nearly 100 hours, provided medical care to 10 injured Turkish citizens, and saved seven more.

“One of the most impactful moments for our team was when they found a woman and her two children who were trapped in their apartment,” says Bogdan Vladutoiu, a member of the USAR rescue team.

Despite facing emotional challenges, the second team, which arrived a few days after the first, was trained and equipped to handle the situation and managed to save around seven people.

Overall, the Romanian teams showed great effort and determination in assisting the victims of the earthquake and highlighted the importance of international solidarity and cooperation in times of crisis.

On an emotional level, it truly is difficult to work on the scene of such a disaster; sometimes you have the feeling that you are not doing enough, or you could do more to save the lives of those under the rubble.

—Cătălin Ivan, a member of the USAR team

The members of the team emphasise the crucial importance of mental and emotional preparation for the job, as teamwork plays a critical role in such missions. Despite the tragedy, the locals’ resilience and humanity impressed the team members, who were offered support and resources by sending them to aid in the rescue efforts, even if they had little or nothing left after the earthquake.

Photo of the rescue team during an operation. (Image source: IGSU, used with permission)

Despite losing almost everything after the earthquake, the locals who were waiting for their relatives to be safe in Hatay didn’t lose their humanity and dignity. They shared whatever they had, even offering us a glass of water.

—Bogdan Vladutoiu

The Romanian rescue team demonstrated the significance of international cooperation and preparedness in the face of natural disasters during their experience in Turkey. Their efforts saved lives and brought hope to a devastated community. This experience also reminds us of the importance of having building regulations and preparedness measures in place to prevent such disasters from occurring in the future. The team’s dedication and bravery testify to the crucial role of rescue teams in mitigating the consequences of natural disasters.

Donation Campaign for Turkey

In addition to the generous help provided by the rescue team, the Romanian government quickly sprang into action by organising a donation campaign and opening a donation depot for anyone who wanted to contribute to the relief efforts.

A Romanian donated clothes and translated her message to Turkish: “Women’s clothes, may God be with you.” (Photo credit: Alya A.)

Reporters for The Bite visited the depot, witnessing that the center accepted a wide range of donations, including canned food, blankets, clothes for all ages and genders, heaters and many more essentials. Even locals from Romania contributed by doing whatever they could, such as giving some old clothes that could keep warm, as it was freezing cold during the period when some were shelterless.

The Romanian public responded overwhelmingly. People from all over Romania came forward to donate what they could, demonstrating deep compassion and empathy for those who were suffering and in need. Contributions flooded the donation depot, ranging from brand new clothes to gently used blankets and other items, as well as 2,000 tents and 8,000 beds.

But the Romanian people didn’t stop there. Many also volunteered and gave their time to help sort and organise the donations, ensuring that they could be distributed quickly and efficiently to those who needed them most. The sense of community and shared purpose that emerged in the aftermath of the earthquake was truly inspiring, and it showed the world just how powerful a force for good people can be when they work together for the same cause.

Man holding Turkish and Romanian flag. (Photo credit: IGSU, used with permission)

In the end, Romania’s commitment to supporting those affected by the earthquake was a powerful example of the country’s generosity and humanity, as well as the feeling of hope and unity. In total, it demonstrated that even in the darkest of times, there is still hope and goodness to be found in the world. It also served as a reminder that when people come together to support one another, anything is possible, and even one small gesture can make a significant impact on a person’s life.

Click here if you would like to make a donation to AFAD, a Turkish relief organization.