Turkey earthquake: ‘The amount of need here is overwhelming’

Mercy Relief workers in Turkey

The scenes of devastation looked unreal to charity workers

An aid worker in Turkey helping earthquake survivors said the amount of support needed made his team “feel helpless”.

Junaid Butt, from Birmingham, arrived at Adana airport on Wednesday with other members of Mercy Relief.

They are taking food and blankets to thousands of people left homeless.

“The amount of need here is just immense and overwhelming, especially for a small charity of our size,” he said.

They have helped prepare and distribute more than 1,500 meals a day. “But it’s not enough, it’s not even remotely enough,” Mr Butt said.

Junaid Butt and a child

Junaid Butt is among charity and rescue workers in Turkey

He said huge amounts of money and manpower are needed.

More than 41,000 people are known to have died in Turkey and Syria since two huge earthquakes struck on 6 February.

The UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has launched an aid appeal for an estimated 17 million people, many in urgent need of shelter, food and medical support.

‘Empty feeling’

“Coming out here and doing what we can, we think it will make us feel somewhat helpful, but we just feel helpless,” Mr Butt told BBC Radio WM.

“There’s so much more that they need and we just can’t do it, so we leave here with this empty feeling every single night when we go back.”

The team began work in the Osmaniye region where he said about 30% of buildings had been destroyed or deemed structurally unsafe.

He said Turkish authorities had put up camps and shelters in the area.

“There’s one makeshift camp that was in a school playground that we visited that houses 120 families. We provided them with hot food,” he said.

They have been working alongside a local organisation to provide aid and in one case sought medical help for a three-year-old boy badly burned.

The team later headed to the southern city of Antakaya and found a scene of even worse devastation.

“Around here there’s probably 90% destruction or structural damage,” he said. “So there’s so many more people in so much more need in this area and as we go closer to the epicentre it’s getting worse and worse and worse.

“It’s mind-blowing, we are walking around and some of the team are saying it just doesn’t look real. It looks like it’s a film set or something like that. It looks like a war zone.”

The “situation is causing desperation” and he said it was quite a tense atmosphere in the city.

“People are getting more and more desperate to find some sort of shelter, somewhere safe for their families,” he said.

The Mercy Relief team has been moving through the streets as quickly as possible.

“We’re dropping food packs, we’re dropping blankets and we are just moving on from camp to camp to camp.”

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