IDF complete miraculous rescue of a 12-year-boy in Turkey earthquakes

Elsewhere distraught relatives tell of their trauma as search of family members goes on


A distraught relative of a Jewish community leader in southern Turkey has told the JC of her fear that she may never see her uncle and aunt again after their building collapsed during this week’s giant earthquake.

Rescuers have been searching for Fortuna and Saul Cenudioglu (right) — the head of the small Jewish community in Antakya — since a 7.8 magnitude quake hit the region early on Monday and a second followed just hours later.

The remainder of the city’s Jewish community have now been evacuated to Istanbul, potentially ending the 2,500-year continuous Jewish presence in Antakya.

Ela Cenudioglu, who lives in Istanbul, said the Antakya community was now “finished”.
Speaking of her family’s agony as they wait for news about Saul and Fortuna, she added:

“Their building is ruined, especially their floor is ruined,” she said. “We don’t know whether they survived.”

“I’m traumatised,” she added. “It looks terrible, all the places I was, all the places I had loved through my childhood, where I spent my summers, my parents house, is all gone now.”

Meanwhile, in Kahramanmaraş, 100 miles to the north of Antakya, an Israeli rescue team completed a miraculous rescue of a 12-year-boy after four members of his family were killed.

“We were on our way to a damaged site when we were called by locals who said they heard sounds coming from the rubble,” IDF Major Matan Schneider, who is leading the Israeli search team in Kahramanmaraş, told the Times of Israel.

The IDF team also rescued a young woman who had been trapped inside the same building as the boy.

Just a dozen Jews were in Antakya when the earthquakes struck. Other than missing community president Saul Cenudioglu and his wife Fortuna, the only remaining member is
Mr Cenudioglu’s brother, who has stayed to assist in the rescue effort, Naftali Haleve Sason, who works for the Turkish Chief Rabbinate, told the JC.

Evacuated members of the Jewish community have gone “through hell,” Ms Cenudioglu said.

Those now in Istanbul are deeply upset, Mr Sason said, and relying on their faith to cope with the natural disaster.

One earthquake victim was so devastated that his tefillin had fallen to the ground during the quake, his first question when meeting Turkey’s Chief Rabbi, Ishak Haleva, was whether he should undertake a fast to atone.

Istanbul Rabbi Mendy Chitrik, who travelled to Antakya on Tuesday to assist its Jewish community wrote on Twitter: “I can’t even start describing the scenes in Antakya. Help is needed and is urgent.”

Photos posted by the Chabad emissary reveal complete destruction, with buildings reduced to little more than haphazard piles of debris.

Antakya’s synagogue has been damaged but has not collapsed, Rabbi Chitrik said, after rescuing Torah scrolls from the site.

Rescuers are now working “around the clock” to save lives, said Felix Lotan, a Magen David Adom medic scrambled to Turkey earlier this week.

The Israeli team on the ground is led by the IDF and made up of Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and IsraAID staff. It is one of the largest international delegations in Turkey, with at least 400 members.

“We began a complicated rescue operation that lasted four and a half hours… and we rescued a 23-year-old woman in good health, only with a fractured pelvis,” said Mr Lotan.

Though there are likely no further Jewish casualties of the quake, the community has mobilised to collect aid for those affected.

Appeals by Jewish schools and institutions in Istanbul for supplies have received a “big response,” he added.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has now declared a state of emergency across ten Turkish provinces.

The official death count across Turkey and Syria has risen to 11,224, with casualties expected to rise as high as 20,000, the World Health Organisation has suggested.

Thousands of buildings have been toppled, schools and hospitals destroyed, and tens of thousands have been left homeless across Syria and Turkey following Monday’s dual earthquakes.

The 7.8 magnitude quake struck just after 4am local time on Monday morning, 23 km east of Nurdagi in the southern Gaziantep province, and was followed just over 10 minutes later by a 6.7 magnitude aftershock, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was one of the strongest earthquakes to hit Turkey in the last century.

Israeli teams’ rapid response

Within 24 hours of the first earthquake hitting Turkey on Sunday night, Israeli rescuers were in the air and en route to the scene of the disaster.

A 150 strong IDF-led delegation featuring search and rescue specialists from Magen David Adom, Hatzala and IsraAID landed in the city of Adana at 10am on Tuesday.

After two hours spent organising specialist equipment designed to help locate earthquake victims trapped among rubble and debris they set out for the epicentre of the disaster zone.

A drive that would take three hours under routine conditions stretched to four as roads clogged with fleeing people.

The IDF team have now set up base in the almost completely destroyed city of Kahramanmara, where a second delegation from Israel has now established a field hospital.
As of Wednesday, the IDF-led team had located and rescued five civilians.

Poor weather means medical assistance for those without shelter is now vital, MDA’s disaster preparedness director Chaim Rafalowski said. “The need for medical and humanitarian aid is expected to last for many weeks,” he added.

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