“We thought we were going to face great difficulties, but the situation we are actually dealing with can only be described as apocalyptic”. This is how Giulia Longo, who works for the Milanese NGO CELIM and for Caritas Iskenderun, describes the post-earthquake situation in Turkey. “It is snowing, it is very cold (at night the temperature goes as low as -5°), people are homeless and there are no places to find shelter, the roads are blocked  – continues Giulia -. The scale of this tragedy is such that it is difficult to explain and, above all, to deal with. There is a lack of everything – of water, food, warm clothes, gas, electricity. Even simple communications have become complicated”

At the time the earthquake struck, Giulia, Msgr. Paolo Bizzeti, Bishop of Iskenderun, and John Kan Sadredin, head of the local Caritas, were outside Turkey. As they heard about the earthquake, they immediately returned to the country. Giulia stopped in Istanbul to coordinate aid. John Kan Sadredin, on the other hand, reached Iskenderun. ‘Thankfullly we were outside Turkey at the time the terrible quakes struck,’ Giulia said. This saved us because the cathedral and the houses where we lived were all destroyed. Upon reaching the city after a 48-hour journey, John Kan Sadredin was confronted with a dramatic situation. The earthquake has razed to the ground the houses and left survivors with no resources. There are thousands of fatalities.’

In the aftermath of the earthquake, the diocese of Iskenderun left the lines of the listening centre open. This enabled them to receive  thousands of requests for help from the local population and to coordinate with the authorities, particularly with Afad, the Turkish civil protection. ‘Immediately afterwards – explains Giulia, who coordinates aid from Istanbul – we found out that some of our warehouses had remained intact. Inside were clothes, blankets, gas bottles and some food. So we distributed them to the local population. At the same time, we set up a team that is managing the emergency by identifying the best ways to bring new aid. Since yesterday we have managed to get three aid trucks full of essential goods to the centre of Iskenderun, which we are now distributing. There is a great need for clean water, electricity generators  and gas. We are working to get them here.’

The city of Iskenderun is located in the middle of a very poor region. Over the years, thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian refugees have been converging on this area. Caritas and CELIM, have been carrying out projects to help them and to also support the poorest Turkish people. ‘We try to help everyone – concludes Giulia – regardless of their origin and faith. We never differentiate. But this earthquake was devastating. We are facing a tragic, unprecedented event.’

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