The vicar of Anatolia and president of Caritas Turkey announced the mobilization of Christian organizations to bring aid to the affected populations. The phenomenon “took us by surprise.” The person in charge of Cáritas Anatolia speaks of “serious and extensive damage”. The Hatay airport runway was destroyed and several hospitals were affected. The testimony of Msgr. Audo in Aleppo: “Very afraid” due to the “violent tremors”.
Milan () – “A total disaster”. With a dry and dramatic phrase about the magnitude of the consequences, the vicar of Anatolia, Monsignor Paolo Bizzeti, describes to the situation in Turkey after the earthquake that occurred overnight and has also left hundreds dead in neighboring Syria. The prelate is in Italy these days for a series of meetings, but for hours he has been in contact – as far as possible, because communications are difficult and are continually interrupted – with the faithful and collaborators in the area. “The cathedral of the Vicariate of Iskenderun [la iglesia de la Anunciación, un edificio del siglo XIX] It has collapsed,” he adds, “and all the buildings have been disabled” but for now in the local Christian community “no victims have been recorded.”
The prelate is also president of Caritas Turkey and has already announced that “an account will be opened” to help the local population. “The earthquake occurred in the middle of the night, shortly after 4 in the morning” and for this reason it took most of the people who were resting in their homes by “surprise”. “It’s a disaster,” he adds, “and there’s still a lot of fear” from the strong aftershocks that often follow the mainshock.
John Farhad Sadredin, head of Caritas Anatolia, is also in Italy at this time for a scheduled event that was to take place tonight in Veneto but has already been cancelled. “I tried to contact several people in the area – he told – but entire regions had been isolated until a few hours ago and it was not possible to communicate by phone.” “In a church and in the refectory” of the community we are housing some seventy people who were left homeless – Farhad continues – but in the city that was formerly known as Alessandretta, “the damage is serious and extensive”.
“The main tremor occurred shortly after 4 in the morning, the balance throughout the region is very high, several buildings have collapsed and in one of these a member of our community in Antioquia is missing.” “There are about 200 destroyed buildings and they are trying to rescue the victims. The walls and roof of the Syriac church have also collapsed, as has the Orthodox church, and there are policemen under the rubble. Searches are being carried out -he concludes- while we try to find passage to return, but the Hatay airport runway, which serves the cities of Antakya [antigua Antioquía] and Iskenderun, has been destroyed. Damage was also recorded in the hospitals of the two cities and in the police headquarters.
Meanwhile, the death toll from the magnitude 7.8 (some sources say 7.9 on the Richter scale) earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria continues to rise, though it was clearly felt by millions in many other countries, like Lebanon, Israel and Greece. In Turkey the death toll stands at 284, but it continues to rise as the minutes go by. To these are added more than 2,300 injured, although this is also a partial estimate. According to some experts, it could be the worst earthquake in the country’s recent history, with at least 40 aftershocks already registered.
Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan announced in a statement sending search and rescue teams “to the most affected regions. We hope to get out of this catastrophe – he added – as soon as possible and with the least possible damage, and we are working for it ”. In Gaziantep, near the epicenter, the historic castle, one of the most famous symbols of the city, was destroyed, and a state of emergency is in force throughout the country. In neighboring Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad has called an emergency meeting, there are already 427 victims (plus another 120 in rebel-held areas) and the number of wounded exceeds 600. The governorates of Aleppo, Aleppo, Homs, Latakia and Hama.
“We felt the earthquake very clearly,” Mgr Antoine Audo, Chaldean bishop of Aleppo and former president of Caritas Syria, told . “We were very scared, three very violent tremors followed in less than two minutes. In Syria there are also many deaths, the official data is constantly updated. Damage has been reported in Aleppo, Tartus, Idlib and in many other cities buildings have collapsed. Here in the bishopric stones have fallen from the nearby mosque, part of the minaret has collapsed. There is damage throughout the city. First the war that caused so many disasters and now the earthquake… We are going to evaluate the first reports and then we will mobilize with all the Christian organizations to bring help to the affected populations”.