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Jewish Journal

Relief Is in Sight

Israel, Jewish groups help prepare Turkey's earthquake victims for the coming winter


by Gil Sedan

September 2, 1999 | 7:59 pm

A middle-aged man climbed up to the cabin of a crane and drew the operator's attention to a small suitcase on top of a pile of rubble left by last month's killer earthquake in Turkey.

"Can you get it for me?" he pleaded. "Please, it's very important."

The huge arm of the crane pulled it out of the ruins with perfect precision. The man, Aydin Yilmaz, in his early 50s, opened the suitcase, pulled out a photo album, pointed at the pictures and said: "That's my family. They are all there, underneath."

He pointed quietly at the huge pile of rubble that had buried his wife and two children.

Stories like Yilmaz's are commonplace in Adapazari, a town east of Istanbul and one of the six areas hardest hit by the earthquake that killed an estimated 14,000 people.

Now, with winter approaching, the focus is on making sure that international support, including aid from Israel and Jewish communities worldwide, reaches the estimated 600,000 people left homeless.

The Israel Defense Force has deployed a field hospital at the entrance to Adapazari. A number of tents supply the local population with advanced medical equipment, including X-ray facilities, laboratories and children's and orthopedic wards. Israeli surgeons conducted emergency operations -- and one baby delivery -- in the rooms of an adjacent government office.

In addition, Israel has sent Turkey about 1,000 tons of agricultural products, frozen vegetables, water, milk and new and used clothing, all of which had been collected in Israel.

The Israeli relief delegation numbered some 500 rescuers, medical staff and other experts, including the IDF's elite rescue unit, which had gained experience in rescue operations in Lebanon and places of natural disaster in many parts of the world.

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