Turkish interpreter praises Taiwan team for rescue mission work

A Turkish volunteer with the Taiwan Research and Rescue team in Adiyaman, one of the areas hit worst by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Turkey, praised the team's perseverance after watching it race against time to locate possible survivors in the aftermath of the temblor.

Yilmaz Keskin, a Turkish national who lives and works in Taiwan, was preparing to return to Taiwan on Feb. 6, when the earthquake struck central Turkey and neighboring Syria.

Upon learning a Taiwanese team was traveling to Turkey to help with search and rescue operations in the quake-battered areas, Keskin drove several hours to the city of Adana where he volunteered to help the arriving rescue team from Taiwan as an interpreter, he told CNA Saturday in Adiyaman.

"If not now, when would be the best time to help?" he said.

The tall and slim Turk, dubbed "Professor Yeh" by Taiwanese rescuers, first visited Taiwan in 1993 to learn Mandarin Chinese. As his interest in the language grew, he decided to put down roots in Taichung, where he currently works as an assistant professor in politics at Tunghai University.

In Adiyaman, apart from working as an interpreter, Keskin also helped to transport relief supplies and was once so tired he fell asleep at the base camp of the Taiwan team only to be awoken when his jacket caught fire from the camp fire.

It is normal to be awake 24 consecutive hours in such a situation, he said.

Keskin also said he was extremely shocked to see toppled buildings in the quake-hit area, but felt reassured because the Taiwanese rescuers worked so hard to find survivors in Adiyaman. "None of them have stopped for a rest since they arrived."

As he watched Taiwanese rescuers pulling a 35-year-old woman, called Cemile, alive from the rubble of a collapsed building on Friday morning, tears welled up in his eyes, Keskin said, adding that he was deeply moved that the team traveled all the way from Taiwan to help his fellow countrymen in need.

With the hope of finding survivors waning after more than 120 hours since the earthquake hit, the Turkish government begun to send heavy equipment into the worst-hit areas.

"Taiwan's team has done its part," Keskin said, and it's time for Ankara to take over and handle the aftermath.

The Taiwan Research and Rescue team, made up of 130 personnel and five search dogs, is scheduled to depart Adiyaman on Sunday local time and return home on Feb. 15.

The death toll from the earthquakes in Turkey and northwestern Syria has so far exceeded 28,000, and a United Nations humanitarian affairs official has estimated those figures could double, according to foreign media reports.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel