OWWA verifying if Pinoy among quake dead

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star
OWWA verifying if Pinoy among quake dead
Syrian women and children sit wrapped in blankets outside collapsed buildings in the town of Jandairis, in the rebel-held part of Aleppo province on Feb. 7 as search and rescue operations continue following a deadly earthquake.

MANILA, Philippines — The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is verifying reports that a Filipino worker was among the thousands of people killed in the strong earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria.

“So far, there is one report of casualty, but we will not confirm this until we get full details,” OWWA chief Arnell Ignacio said in a radio interview yesterday.

Ignacio noted that the OWWA has checked the three areas in the southern part of Turkey, which are the most severely affected by the quake.

Based on OWWA records, Ignacio said there are 113 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hatay, 51 in Adana and 29 in Gaziantep.

In a separate radio interview, Filipino community leader Weng Timoteo reported that three Filipinos are missing after the magnitude 7.8 quake that struck Turkey and that one of them had three children.

Timoteo said a close friend of one of the missing OFWs told her that the house where her friend and three kids were staying collapsed following the strong quake.

The Filipino community leader said they have also been searching for two other missing Filipinas. The employer said the OFW died, but Timoteo said they are still confirming the report.

Timoteo said there are areas that have yet to be reached by rescue and search operations because of the massive destruction that affected even hospitals and government buildings.

The Philippine embassy in Ankara confirmed two Filipinos were hurt due to the earthquake.

“The embassy said that the two are OK as of now,” said Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza.

The embassy joined the Turkish government and other foreign diplomatic missions in mourning the loss of lives from the devastating earthquake that hit the southeastern part of the country.

The Philippine flag at the embassy will be at half-mast until sunset on Sunday, Feb. 12.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the families and loved ones of all those affected in Kahramanmara?, Gaziantep, Hatay, Osmaniye, Ad?yaman, Malatya, ?anl?urfa, Adana, Diyarbak?r and Kilis,” the embassy said.

Aid to FWs

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople has ordered the immediate delivery of welfare assistance to quake-affected Filipino workers in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is also activating its Hotline 1348 to serve as a handling center for families of OFWs in the affected areas seeking information about their loved ones.

“I have instructed the DMW to share information with the AFP rescue mission bound for Turkey regarding the names of overseas workers deployed to the said country,” Ople said in a statement.

Based on DMW data, there are about 193 Filipinos in the three quake-affected provinces of Turkey.

She said the DMW will also respond to calls for assistance, including queries from anxious families.

Ople noted that a team from the Migrant Workers Office in southern Lebanon is heading to Turkey soon.

The DMW, she said, will work closely with the DFA to ensure that humanitarian assistance would be delivered to affected OFWs in quake-affected areas in the three countries.

Rescue teams ready

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has already prepared its search and rescue and medical teams for deployment to earthquake-ravaged Turkey and Syria.

Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP spokesperson, said they are making available their trained medical doctors and nurses as well as police officers with a background in search and rescue operations in the event the government orders them to help in relief operations in the two countries.

“The PNP is ready anytime our assistance is needed by the Philippine government to assist,” Fajardo said in a news briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

For its part, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it is ready to deploy a 12-man team to earthquake-hit Turkey to help in its transport and logistics requirements.

MMDA Chairman Romando Artes said the team is composed of well-trained disaster rescuers, who were previously deployed to help in the rescue and retrieval operations in Bohol, Nepal and Pampanga which were hit by earthquakes in 2013, 2015 and 2019, respectively.

The team is expected to join a Philippine contingent of the Office of the Civil Defense, the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippine Army and the Philippine Air Force (PAF), among others.

Earlier, President Marcos said the government will send an 85-member team to help those affected by the earthquake.

Fajardo said there is no specific guidance yet from government officials if the PNP will send its own contingent.

Turkey thanks Phl

Turkey’s top diplomat in the Philippines thanked yesterday the Philippine government for its pledge to deploy a team to Turkey to help in the search and rescue efforts.

In an interview on CNN Philippines’ “The Source,” Turkish Ambassador Niyazi Evren Akyol expressed gratitude to the government and the Filipino people for “being with us and standing with us in time of our need.”

“We are deeply moved by the contribution of the people and the government of the Philippines,” Akyol said. “There’s an 85 personnel being prepared for immediate departure. We are deeply moved by this generous gesture.”

The ambassador said the scale of destruction is severe after Turkey faced two major earthquakes – magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 and in between multiple aftershocks as strong as magnitude 6.5.

Ten provinces with a population of 13.5 million were affected by the earthquake, making the task for search and rescue teams enormous.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an declared on Tuesday a three-month state of emergency covering the country’s 10 southern provinces hit by devastating earthquakes, and called it a disaster zone in a move meant to bolster rescue efforts. — Pia Lee-Brago, Emmanuel Tupas, Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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