Rescuers Hunt for Turkey Quake Survivors

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- At least 279 people are confirmed dead and many more are still missing after a 7.2 earthquake hit eastern Turkey Sunday, collapsing buildings in the region near the Iranian border.

Rescuers continued to race against the clock searching for survivors Monday. CBN's Operation Blessing International is part of the global relief effort currently underway.

"It's difficult to describe the moment when the earthquake struck," said Mustafa Yalcin, a survivor who was looking for missing relatives.

"There was a lot of shaking. I have relatives here and am waiting for them," Yalcin said. "I pray to God they will come out alive and well. It's really difficult to describe. May God protect us all."

"I felt the Adana earthquake as well, but this was much stronger," Ayse Turan, another survivor, said. "At 13:43 (Turkish time) in the afternoon, we felt a huge tremor and immediately fled the building."

"It was pretty jolting. We have a friend who lives on the first floor of this building. We're hoping our friend has survived. We're in despair," Turan said.

Makeshift hospitals have been set up in the area to receive the wounded in the quake-prone region.

"We went to all the hospitals but haven't been able to find our friend. I pray to God our friends have survived," another survivor said.

Publicly Turkey has declined international aid offers. But Operation Blessing and others already have relief on the way.

"It's a moving target right now," Operation Blessing International President Bill Horan said.

"We're desperate for information from the field," he said. "We've got a little bit and we're anxious to know about the extent of the damage - the magnitude of the disaster."

"In the meantime we're working with Humedica, which is a Christian NGO based in Germany that we work with around the world," Horan said.

Horan said Humedica has a medical team that will be landing in the disaster area Monday.

"Operation Blessing is involved in that project with financial support. David Darg, who is our director of international disaster relief, is here with me in Israel on other business," Horan told CBN News in Jerusalem.

"David will be joining the Humedica team tomorrow, and we're just kind of in a wait-and-see mode right now," he said.

Despite political tensions between Israel and Turkey, the Jewish state was quick to offer assistance.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it's what neighbors should do for one another.

"I've instructed all branches of the Israeli government to offer whatever help we can offer to the people of Turkey," Netanyahu said at a press conference.

"We did respond before in a major earthquake several years ago. And this is also how Turkey acted when we had the devastating (Mount) Carmel forest fire, and they sent two planes, very speedily, to help us put out the fire," he said.

Horan said Operation Blessing also hopes to work with an Israeli consortium of NGOs, called IsraAID.

"It's my understanding that IsraAID has been involved in search-and-rescue training specifically with the Turks for some years now," Horan said. "That team -- they're really anxious to go and help those folks who they actually helped train."

Operation Blessing has partnered with IsraAID in the past in disasters in the Philippines, Haiti and Japan, and in South Sudan.

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CBN News
Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

Chris Mitchell and Julie Stahl

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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