The first Israeli delegation to Turkey is making its way back to Israel


“We rescued 19 people from the ruins while they were still alive” – MDA representative in the Israeli rescue delegation to Turkey sums up the 8 days of their operation: MDA Director General: “MDA paramedics at a field hospital continue to help victims in the affected area”

The first Israeli delegation that travelled to Turkey to assist in locating, rescuing and treating victims in the disaster area began this morning (Monday) to complete its mission and is now making its way back to Israel. During 8 complex days, the members of the delegation managed to rescue 19 people from the ruins while still alive. A representative of Magen David Adom to the Home Front Command delegation, director of the emergency department and MDA paramedic, Lt. Col. (res.) Felix Lotan, summarizes the activities conducted at the disaster area and describes the rescue operations in the ruins – between the difficult sights, to the signs of life and the moment when the a rescued 6 year old boy ran into his grandfather’s arms.

We arrived late at night to the disaster area in Karamanmarsh,’ Felix recalls, “Moments later I was already called to assist the teams of the Home Front Command. We were directed to the ruins of a building where a small child was trapped. It was a very complicated rescue, we broke through the basement into an apartment that was above us, where the boy was located. Through the spaces that we created we managed to rescue the child and after I checked him I realized that he was in excellent medical condition. It was very gratifying, but nothing prepared me for the moment when he ran barefoot to his grandfather who was waiting for him outside.’

“I don’t remember going to sleep at all in the first few days,” says Felix, “we were in a specific area and all of our team worked on very few hours of sleep and food – not because there was none, but because there is no time to eat and no time to waste.” We moved from place to place, from building to building and at one point we begin a very long rescue – two people trapped under the ruins of one of the buildings.’

Hours into that complex rescue, Felix receives a message that there is another rescue – a woman who was identified under the rubble not far away and is in a very complex situation. “The doctor of the rescue unit asked for another senior medical person with him to make decisions and I got there quickly. The leg of the 27-year-old woman was trapped in a complex way under the rubble and we are debating whether to perform an amputation to rescue her. Time works against us, but after consulting with a rescue officer we made a decision not to amputate the leg and continue with a different rescue method. After an hour of rescue efforts we managed to release the leg without amputating it. The woman was in a very narrow and crowded space, it was very difficult to move there, but another hour passed and we managed extricate her alive.

The woman was rescued and conveyed for further medical treatment. Minutes later Felix was called back to the first site – the one where the rescue was still underway. “We were in the middle of a situation assessment and suddenly they run to me and told me that they need my help at the previous site after the teams broke in – to perform an assessment and medical treatment because the teams detected signs of life. I entered the ruins and finally reached a man about 60 years old who was indeed conscious. I performed medical tests and when I realized it was possible – together with the team – we started to pull him out while he was conscious.’

Over the course of six days and at the end of complex rescue operations, the members of the Israeli delegation, including paramedic and director of the emergency department at MDA Felix Lotan, managed to rescue 19 people from the ruins, including a father and his children from the destroyed buildings. But on the 7th day of the mission, the members of the delegation were called to stop the search – the chances of finding survivors alive are very low. “We are folding our temporary base” said Felix with mixed emotions, “It was an amazing job and we saved a lot of lives, but we would have been happy to save many more. I am returning to Israel to help and understand how to prepare and implement the treatment methods conducted here in Turkey during the last week, if, God forbid, a disaster of this magnitude will happen in the State of Israel.’

It is possible to interview the MDA representative of the Israeli rescue delegation to Turkey, MDA Director of the Emergency Department and paramedic Felix Lotan – who participated in the rescue operations

Zaki Heller
MDA Spokesperson