Warning violence hampering earthquake rescue efforts in Turkey

As death toll in Syria and Turkey passes 28,000, rescuers say unrest paused search operations

Rescuers in southern Turkey have warned that efforts to find survivors after the earthquake have been hampered by outbreaks of violence, as the death toll in Syria and Turkey passed 28,000.

German rescuers and the Austrian army paused search operations on Saturday, citing fighting between unidentified groups.

An Austrian army spokesperson said altercations between groups in the Hatay province resulted in dozens of personnel from the Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit seeking shelter in a base camp with other international organisations, the BBC reported.

Lt Col Pierre Kugelweis said in a statement: “There is increasing aggression between factions in Turkey. The chances of saving a life bears no reasonable relation to the safety risk.”

Austria resumed its rescue operation after the Turkish army stepped in to offer protection, the country’s Ministry of Defence said.

The German branch of the search and rescue group Isar and Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (TSW) also suspended operations, citing security concerns.

Isar spokesperson Stefan Heine said: “There are more and more reports of clashes between different factions, shots have also been fired.”

Steven Bayer, operations manager of Isar, said he expected security to worsen as food and water supplies become more scarce.

He added: “We are watching the security situation very closely as it develops.”

German rescue teams said they would resume work as soon as Turkish authorities deem the situation safe, Reuters reported.

The combined death toll in Turkey and Syria from the earthquake has surpassed 28,000. Fuat Oktay, the Turkish vice-president, announced on Saturday that the death toll in Turkey had risen to 24,617.

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