Emergency aid: How the animals in the earthquake regions are helped

Sila is an earthquake survivor.

Emergency aid: How the animals in the earthquake regions are helped

Sila is an earthquake survivor. The two-year-old Doberman bitch had to endure 29 days under the rubble. The animal was rescued from the rubble in early March, all bony. And with her three young, as could be seen on videos. Born in the rubble, helpers carry the puppies into the daylight for the first time. The devastating tremors on February 6 in Turkey and northern Syria killed more than 56,000 people and devastated areas - and with it a number of animals buried, injured and traumatized.

Since then, provisional structures for collecting and caring for the animals have been set up in the earthquake region. Saygin Narcin from the animal welfare organization Haytap was on site for the first few hours. He arrived in Antakya, which was completely destroyed, 20 hours after the earthquake, stayed for four weeks and helped set up an animal clinic. "We treat cats and dogs, but also birds, sheep, lambs, turtles, mice, and rabbits."

It was a dystopia, he tells the dpa news agency back in Istanbul. Because the power supply in the cities and thus the lighting on the streets were missing, a number of animals were hit and thus additionally injured after the quake. The supply remains a critical issue, there is a lack of water and food. Many of the animals have therefore been evacuated from the region to sanctuaries.

One sanctuary is Angels Farm in Izmir, western Turkey. There you hardly know what to do with the animals. Before the earthquake, the center cared for 3,500 animals. Now it's 5000 and counting. Again and again cars with animals in cages roll onto the site. "Most are pregnant," says Figen Akgül, founder of Angels Farm. A team of 20 from the farm was in the earthquake region in the first few days after the disaster began. Animal rescue was only partly an option because the situation of the people was so terrible, says Akgül. A baby rescued from the rubble owes its life to animal rights activists.

Angels Farm sanctuary in Izmir

The animals that she now takes care of on Angel's farm often haven't eaten or drunk anything for days and therefore suffered from organ failure. They had to amputate a leg of one cat and both eyes of another.

In neighboring Syria, animal rights activists - like humanitarian workers - were already struggling with the extreme circumstances of the civil war before the earthquake. "We have always worked in contested areas," says Mohammed Wattar from the House of Cats Ernesto facility in Idlib - but the quake brought the "disaster". "We saw cows with roofs collapsing. We saw animals with very serious injuries." Since the quake, the helpers have taken care of around 1,300 animals during field operations, including chickens, donkeys, goats and entire flocks of sheep. There are currently so many cats in the House of Cats that you can hardly count them on photos.

Even today, more than two months after the earthquake, a team sets out twice a week to care for animals around Idlib. It has large sacks of dry food and medicines. "Anyone who reports and who has an animal in need will be helped," says Christoph May of the World Animal Protection Society in Berlin. Like Angels Farm in Turkey, Ernesto is a partner organization.

"It took a long time for the animals to show themselves again," says May, referring to the cats that hid in niches during the earthquake. "They were disturbed. Their entire environment suddenly dissolved and lay in rubble." Cats and dogs suddenly lacked important caregivers because people around them died or left the area.

Referral to new owners

Finding new owners, for example, takes time and therefore more resources, says May's colleague Wiebke Plasse, referring to Turkey, who traveled to the region herself after the earthquake. But the funds are lacking in many places. Even if people are still looking for their pets with photos on social networks, the general willingness to help has decreased significantly, says Akgül. Immediately after the earthquake, a number of people applied to adopt an animal. The willingness was huge. But that - as well as the attention to the needs and concerns of the people in the region - has decreased rapidly.

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