Turkey earthquake rescue most complex yet, says veteran

Screengrab from video dated 11/02/23 of a police officer and a woman from the rubble of a building in Hatay, Turkey, five days after the country was devastated by an earthquake.

Phil Irving helped pull two people from the rubble of a building five days after Turkey was devastated by the earthquake

A long-serving firefighter who spent his weekend saving two victims of the Turkey earthquake has said it was the most complex operation he has ever been involved in.

Phil Irving spent 17 hours helping rescue a police officer and a woman from a pancaked eight-story building in Hatay on Saturday.

Mr Irving has previously helped in rescue efforts around the world.

But he said the job never get easier.

“You don’t get desensitised to it,” the veteran from Mid and West Fire and Rescue Service said

“Every rescue is tinged with some level of sadness. Whoever you’re pulling out has probably left someone behind in that building and whoever is waiting outside for them is grieving for everyone they’ve lost.”

The 46-year-old, from Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, told BBC Radio Wales’ Breakfast programme that the rescue of the two people, who were entombed in rubble and debris, was the most complex plan he has been involved in.

“We could hear them shouting – our only access was through the buildings either side. We couldn’t pinpoint their location.

“We had to take a chance and pick a place to break through… an unusual way to start the rescue.”

Phil Irving

The firefighter says every rescue is tinged with sadness

He said he was amazed by the woman who needed next-to-no medical assistance, and that her “strength and resilience was second to none”.

The man, he said, had suspected pelvic injuries.

“We have moments of joy for those that are reunited with families but there’s also grief,” he said.

“It’s an emotional rollercoaster. It’s incredibly difficult to describe. Until you experience it that’s when you can only validate those feelings.”

The death toll for those that have died in the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria in just one week has passed 33,000.

Mr Irving said the devastation to the high-rise buildings that have collapsed is “profound”, adding: “It’s just something I’ve never seen in my life.”

Officials in Turkey say 113 arrest warrants have been issued in connection with the construction of buildings that collapsed in Monday’s earthquake.

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