Five of the 58 alive recovered by the foreign teams in Turkey were from the Greek mission


“We are not heroes, we are professionals whose mission is to save people,” declares the head of operations of the Fire Brigade, Lt. Gen. Athanasios Balafas

Justification in the fight given by Greek mission search and rescue in Turkeyand which has been recognized internationally, are the results of the enormous effort they are making, together with the other crews from all over the world, who are operating in the cities flattened by the double deadly earthquake, as shown by the numbers resulting from the course of business, until last night.

So according to these statistics, out of the 88 international teams that have moved from foreign countries and are operating in the area hit by the terrible double earthquake, a total of 58 people had been pulled alive from the ruins of collapsed houses until last night. Of these 58the 5 were rescued by the Greek missionwhich is still operating as of this morning in another location, under the same adverse conditions that create the bitter cold and chaos that has been caused since the impact of Enceladus.

These figures were reported, based on the data posted on the special data platform with the progress of operations in Turkey, by the head of the Operations Branch of the Fire Brigade, Lt. Gen. Athanasios Balafas, in the context of the information he gave today at the Civil Protection building in Maroussi. about the actions of the Greek search and rescue mission.

“We are not heroes. We are professionals whose mission is to save people,” said Mr. Balafas, commenting on the scope of the actions and rescues of the Greek mission in Turkey, but he did not hide his emotion, referring to the terrible moments of tension felt by the firefighters at the moment trying to save a child, a person from the rubble.

Especially, in response to a question about whether the rescuer bonds with the victim, on the occasion of the scene that went around the world with the Greek firefighter crying on the first day because when they got close to little Fatma they saw that she was dead, but they saved her 6-year-old sister , Mr. Balafas said:

“It’s inevitable that you won’t get attached. You try to do it by following techniques and concentrating on the little things you have to do in the context of the business. But man is first and foremost a person. And especially when you have face, sound and touch it’s impossible to avoid it. You just learn to manage it. This is the hard part, and all of this cumulatively can make you break. This is why many rescuers around the world at some point stop this work, because they can’t stand it. The primary victims of a disaster are the victims themselves, rescuers and bystanders.”

The general also revealed that in the mission, apart from the engineer Costas Nikas, who is the son of the firefighter who pulled little Andreas from the ruins, after the earthquake in Aigio in 1995, another firefighter, Costas Athanasopoulos, who everyone saw crying after the titanic effort in Turkey, he is also the son of a firefighter and the father of a 5-month-old child, which could not leave him unmoved in the face of this tragedy.

The head of the Corps, lieutenant general Georgios Pournaras, also expressed his thanks and pride for the firefighters, who summed up the philosophy of his colleagues with a phrase by Nikos Kazantzakis: “when you feel pain, you are alive. When you feel the pain of another, you are human.”

Regarding the operational part and the actions of the Greek mission in Turkey, Mr. Balafas said that from this morning, in consultation with the other foreign missions operating in the same region, they moved to another sector, as they completed their work in specific part, but where other groups continue.

In the area where the Greeks were operating until last night, they remained for more than two and a half days, which, as Balafas pointed out, shows the extent of the destruction caused by the earthquake. “Usually we finish the research at one point and move on. But here the situation was such that they could not stop the investigation even for a moment. Just for the recovery of 20-year-old Irene, yesterday, the team worked non-stop for more than six hours and even while there were strong aftershocks that created an extremely dangerous situation.”

The Head of Operations of the PS emphasized that the Greek mission was the first to arrive in the above area last Monday afternoon, a few hours after the submission of Turkey’s request for assistance to the European Civil Protection Mechanism. He set up a makeshift “headquarters” and the next day in the morning began the searches that resulted in the release of 5 people alive and 5 dead.

“All the effort is focused on the first two days, because that’s when we manage to get many people out alive. For this reason, unfortunately, we do not spend time on the dead, and the ones we do remove are usually to make way for someone alive. We have to choose between life and death, despite the fact that even handing over a dead person to his people is a sacred act. Necessarily there is an escalation of operations and a relevant protocol is followed. No matter how hard we try, no one can remain unaffected by such a disaster.”

Mr. Balafas underlined that the Turkish authorities welcomed the Greek mission in the best way, but there was a real chaos and nothing could work. With the help initially of the Greek ambassador in Ankara and the consul and then of the Turkish Civil Protection, the Greek team procured the fuel they needed for the movements and the operation of the rescue machines. At times, however, they had to choose whether to use fuel for the heating devices they had in the tents or to use it for the machines in the surveys. They chose the second.

“I would like to be there with these children and chill together,” said Mr. Balafas characteristically, noting that the cold is the biggest problem, apart from the serious dangers hidden by the searches in the collapsed buildings.

The Greek mission has autonomy in water, food and other basic necessities for a week, but if necessary they will stay more with the supply of those required by the Turkish state.

At the moment, the Greek mission consists of 36 fire-fighting employees from the 1st and 2nd EMAK of Athens and Thessaloniki, 8 people from the EKAV (three doctors and 5 paramedics), two officers-engineers of the PS and the president of the OASP Efthymis Lekkas.

In the same area, they cooperate with 12 other foreign missions, out of the 88 that have arrived in Turkey so far (4 more will go). The 12 teams have set up a joint coordination center handed over from the Greek team to the Dutch team and will continue the investigations with undiminished intensity, for as long as necessary.


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