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German Groups Suspend Turkey Quake Rescue Over Security Problems

A man sits among rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 11, 2023.
A man sits among rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 11, 2023.

Two German aid organizations suspended rescue operations in quake-hit Turkey on Saturday, citing security problems and reports of clashes between groups of people and gunfire.

The German International Search and Rescue (ISAR) and Germany's Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) said they would resume their work as soon as Turkish civil protection agency AFAD classifies the situation as safe.

"You can see that sadness is slowly giving way to anger.

We will therefore remain in the joint camp with the THW for the time being," ISAR Operations Manager Steven Bayer told Reuters, adding however that the organizations would be immediately ready to help if there are any indications of survivors.

Turkish authorities have not reported clashes in the quake-hit region, but President Tayyip Erdogan commented on the general security situation on Saturday, noting that a state of emergency had been declared and that there had been some looting.

"It means that, from now on, the people who are involved in looting or kidnapping should know that the state's firm hand is on their backs," he said during a visit to the region.

The Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU) - also briefly suspended operations on Saturday and then resumed, with Defense Ministry spokesperson Michael Bauer tweeting that the Turkish army had taken over protection of the AFDRU contingent.

Some 82 rescue workers from Austria's armed forces have been in Antakya, Turkey, since February 7 and their specialists have freed nine people from the rubble.

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Switzerland said it was closely monitoring the security situation in Hatay and that the security measures have been increased accordingly.

Switzerland has sent 87 specialists and 8 dogs to help in the rescue operation, and have so far recovered 11 people, including two babies since arrived on Tuesday. An extra team of 12 was sent on Friday.

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    Reuters is a news agency founded in 1851 and owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation based in Toronto, Canada. One of the world's largest wire services, it provides financial news as well as international coverage in over 16 languages to more than 1000 newspapers and 750 broadcasters around the globe.