Japanese Rescue Workers Join Search for Survivors in Quake-hit Turkey

Shigeki Tao / Yomiuri Shimbun photos
A Japanese disaster relief team conducts search and rescue operations in Kahramanmaras, Southern Turkey, on Wednesday.
Shigeki Tao / Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Team leader Hideaki Yamamoto

KAHRAMANMARAS, Turkey — A Japanese disaster relief team has joined search and rescue operations in Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter of the earthquake that shook southern Turkey on Monday.

The first 72 hours after an earthquake disaster is a critical period as the survival rate of victims is said to fall sharply beyond that window.

Even though that period elapsed at 4:17 a.m. on Thursday, rescue workers are continuing the search for survivors.

The Japanese team comprises officers from fire and police departments and members of the Japan Coast Guard. Eighteen members of the group arrived in a quake-stricken district on Tuesday and 55 more members joined the team the following day.

On Wednesday afternoon, the team began searching the debris of a four-story apartment building that was destroyed by the earthquake in Kahramanmaras, where several buildings collapsed.

About 10 members of four families were thought to be trapped under the rubble. The sound of people groaning could be heard at the site until Wednesday morning, according to the team.

The owner of the apartment said requests to the Turkish government and local authorities for help rescuing the victims went unheard because of a lack of rescue workers, among other reasons.

The owner sought help from the Japanese team through an acquaintance.

“We’re in a race against time,” team leader Hideaki Yamamoto said. “The situation is quite tough due to cold temperatures coupled with the risk of aftershocks, but we’ll stay close to the victims and provide support.”

The 57-year-old apartment owner expressed relief that the Japanese team was supporting rescue efforts. “I hope everyone will be rescued as soon as possible,” the owner said.