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Corfu members of Greek Rescue Team return from horrors in Turkey

17 Feb 2023 / 09:23

CORFU. Andreas Korikis and Andreas Mouzakitis, who worked selflessly in search of signs of life amongst the ruins, speak to Enimerosi.

The two Corfu members of the Greek Rescue Team (EOD) mission in Turkey have returned after their horrific experience. Andreas Korikis and Andreas Mouzakitis, who have been members of EOD since 2006 and 2017 respectively, took part in the select 24-member team which travelled to the areas hit by the earthquake in Turkey and selflessly gave their all to rescue even just one life from the ruins.

Despite the cold and the difficulties, the members of EOD worked ceaselessly for four days searching for signs of life amongst the rubble and ruins. Their mission began last Friday and ended on Tuesday 14 February.

Time froze

The two of them spoke to Enimerosi about their experience. Andreas Korikis said, "We knew where we were going, we had seen it, but when we got there we realised
the unimaginable extent of the destruction. Whole towns were razed. In an area with ten 20-storey buildings there would be maybe two still standing - whole blocks were destroyed! Not even in wars is there anything like this - so much destruction, so many dead in just a few minutes. Ghost towns - as if time had stopped. Everything was frozen in the moments when the earthquake happened. No longer any everyday life."

They worked with 12 groups in different towns, putting their lives in danger, to free the few humans alive in the ruins. In adverse conditions and with temperatures dropping as low as -17 degrees Celsius. "It was extremely cold but it was people's love that kept us warm at those times," said Andreas Mouzakitis.

Hope was always alive

Hope that never died no matter how many days passed could be seen on the faces of families searching for their loved ones. And seeing even a few miracles that hope remained alive.

The moments that will always remained etched in the memories of the two men are when they pulled two women out of the rubble alive after six days, with one of them only semi-conscious. Andreas Korikis told Enimerosi that a rescue mission can last for hours but for those involved time means nothing. "According to international regulations, a rescue worker cannot work at a spot for longer than six hours. But... when you realise that you are at the final stages, that just a little longer and you will pull someone out alive, you don't think about the regulations and about sleep. At that time you give 1,000% and don't abandon the rescue to resume the next morning..."

The trained Greek Rescue Team volunteers from all over Greece with the rescue dog Sugar and special equipment departed from Thessaloniki on 9 February fully equipped for a week. Clothing, food, tents, tools to free people, thermal cameras, hazardous gas detectors, generators, communication equipment, stretchers, defibrillators and other specialised first aid equipment.

Support from everyone

They didn't even need to use half of their provisions. Everybody helped them in any way they could, with support coming from many sources. "There must have been about 20 teams from all over the world but the Turkish Civil Protection service worked well. When we arrived we found a huge number of people working there - maybe 1,000-2,000 of them - like a large work site," said Andreas Korikis. "Not only volunteers and organisations, but Civil Protection employees, municipal workers and even refuse trucks."


Everyone is in awe of the magnificent voluntary work that these people do but they themselves don't seem to realise this. "We have been volunteer rescue workers for years, we have been trained to work in these conditions but we didn't expect the reception we got when we arrived in Istanbul and when we came back," Andreas Korikis told Enimerosi. "When people found out that we are rescuers they started to clap spontaneously - it was an indescribable feeling and we were able to understand the extent of the gratitude felt."

Andreas Korikis works as a lifeguard professionally and Andreas Mouzakitis is a paramedic so rescue work is part of their everyday life. In their team, however, there are volunteers from all walks of life whose only motivation is to help. "We have been involved in many search and rescue operations but never anything as huge as this. This will remain forever."