GOAL aid workers among casualties of earthquake in Syria and Turkey

Goal Aid Workers Among Casualties Of Earthquake In Syria And Turkey
Over 20,000 people have been confirmed dead in Turkey and Syria following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake. Photo: PA Images
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Vivienne Clarke

International aid agency GOAL is working to establish the fate of staff who were working in Turkey and Syria when the region was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday, the charity's deputy chief executive Mary Van Lieshout has said.

The agency previously announced 26 of its staff members had died in following the quake, with Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin expressing his condolences.


Ms Van Lieshout told Newstalk Breakfast that GOAL appreciated the support they have received from Irish people and political leaders.

She added GOAL has been working in the region for over 10 years, with staff spread throughout the area devastated by the earthquake.

Much like everyone else in northwest Syria and southeastern Turkey, they were woken in the middle of the night on Monday when the earthquake hit, she explained.

"As we understand it now, 6,000 buildings collapsed across Turkey and 2,000 in Syria. So for us in GOAL, much of the week has been spent trying to really understand, to secure knowledge about where our colleagues were, to account for all of them.


"It's been an ongoing effort for those who were identified quickly as being safe and well. They participated in trying to locate all of their colleagues. And it only emerged day by day really for us when we couldn't account for someone and we would reach out to our teams on the ground in buildings, joining the search and rescue efforts."

In some instances, staff came across the remains of their colleagues when helping in rescue efforts, Ms Van Lieshout said.

"Every crisis is different. In something like an earthquake not only do you have the collapse of buildings and infrastructure, but it becomes very difficult when telecommunications are down, when roads are down and airports are down because the need to help and serve and support communities requires the ability to travel to get commodities, to get services, to get supports to people.

"In a crisis like this ,between two large earthquakes followed by over 70 aftershocks over the course of 24 hours, people felt very unsafe about traveling to help and to even assess the needs and be able to return home or stay in buildings. It's been a really difficult week.


"In spite of the heartbreak that we're going through, we are on the ground. We're already deeply involved in assessing food, non-food items, providing supports around shelter. So anyone who can support us, we deeply appreciate it.

"Funding at this time allows us to move very quickly and to be very relevant to communities that are on the edge because of the devastation. So funding right now really is important."

Information on how to support GOAL's efforts in the area can be found on their website.

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