On the ground as One Allianz in Turkey
Helping and reuniting victims and families
It was one of those moments of hope in the aftermath of an overwhelming disaster. On the second day following the earthquakes that recently ripped through Turkey and Syria, the sound of a baby crying was faintly heard in the rubble in the southern Turkish city of Antakya.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, medical and assistance teams dispatched by Allianz Turkey and Allianz Partners Turkey scoured the affected areas to aid those being rescued from the rubble.
On this occasion, search and rescuers flagged down one of the passing medical teams. The Allianz ambulance stood by as the rescuers cautiously sifted through the debris, ready to medically intervene. Finally, the infant was found and lifted out.
With the child needing urgent medical attention, the Allianz team quickly organized a transfer to the nearby Hatay Field Hospital. On the way, they received a call from the rescue team requesting they return as soon as possible. The mother had also – incredibly – been found alive in the flattened building. After delivering the baby to the hospital, the team returned to pick up the mother. The fortunate pair were reunited in the hospital.
Relief and recovery
In the small hours of February 6, powerful earthquakes smashed across Turkey and northern Syria, destroying cities, and leaving thousands entombed beneath collapsed buildings. The quakes – the biggest measuring a magnitude of 7.8 and 7.5 – were amongst the most devastating seismic events recorded this century.
In the aftermath, cities fell silent as the survivors struggled into the bitterly cold night and tried to come to terms with the catastrophe. In many places, barely a building was left standing in its entirety. The search began for survivors buried in the rubble, with people digging frantically with bare hands for relatives and loved ones.
As the scale of the disaster became apparent, all the Allianz teams in Turkey swung into action. They sent eight ambulances with doctors and intensive care facilities on board into the field from Ankara, the country’s capital. One week’s worth of medical equipment and medicine was also dispatched. Forty-three containers were purchased and shipped to the region. Filled with blankets and heaters, the containers served as a rest and recovery place for earthquake victims.
“In the early hours following the earthquakes, our priority was finding a safe route to transport whatever support and resources we could physically provide,” says Berna Özdemir, Head of Corporate Communications and Sustainability of Allianz Turkey. “Once in the region, we focused on planning and anticipating seamless on-site coordination with the rescue and support teams coming from different local organizations or abroad.”
In the field
Allianz doctors and assistance teams fanned out through the devastated region of Kahramanmaraş. They deployed alongside official rescue organizations, providing medical care and logistics support, particularly as survivors were plucked from the rubble. As soon as a patient’s condition was stabilized, the teams swiftly arranged transfer to the hospital and diligently briefed the hospital emergency teams on the care to be provided.
Together, the teams covered several more cities, such as Malatya and Kayseri in Central Anatolia, where they took on the responsibility for medical air transfers. Amongst the many cases being handled, the team in Kayseri heartily volunteered to prepare an intubated patient for transfer via a Sikorsky military helicopter.
While the Allianz medical teams have been mostly on hand to provide medical assistance, they have also rescued many people, including a family of four (children aged 15 and 9), from an elevator cabin in the Pınarbaşı neighborhood of Elbistan. The teams were also on hand in Hatay to help extract a 60-year-old woman from the remnants of the collapsed apartment building she once called home. It was 138 hours after the earthquake had struck.
“Our teams are used to setting emergency responses into motion, but in disasters like these, emotions and adrenaline come on top. As the hours and days passed, our teams did an incredible job and focused their efforts on each step, each victim, each life saved,” says Aygül Yilmaz Govindan, the Chief Operations Officer of Allianz Partners in Turkey.
The death toll from the initial quakes on February 6 has reached 44,374 in Turkey, the national disaster agency AFAD said. According to the United Nations, nearly 6,000 people have died in Syria. In Turkey alone, 1.5 million have been made homeless.
The horrifying impact of the earthquakes stems from Turkey’s position at the crossroads of several tectonic plates. The small Anatolian plate, on which most of the country sits, is being squeezed by the Arabian plate as it moves north and the Eurasian plate to the north (which is moving south). The effects are still being felt. Two weeks after the earthquakes, tremors of 6.4 and 5.8 magnitudes struck Hatay province. At least six people were killed and 213 injured.
Allianz has committed 6 million euros to earthquake relief and recovery, including one million euros to match employee donations (). A part of this sum has already been donated to local authorities, municipalities, medical associations, and NGOs such as UNICEF to support the wellbeing of children in the impacted areas. The fund will continue to aid the victims of the disaster throughout the year.
** As of June 30, 2023.
*** As reported – not adjusted to reflect the application of IFRS 9 and IFRS 17.