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CNN One Thing

You’ve been overwhelmed with headlines all week – what's worth a closer look? One Thing takes you into the story and helps you make sense of the news everyone's been talking about. Each Sunday, host David Rind interviews one of CNN’s world-class reporters to tell us what they've found – and why it matters. From the team behind CNN 5 Things.

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Inside the Race for Earthquake Relief in Turkey and Syria
CNN One Thing
Feb 12, 2023

When a series of massive earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria, relief organizations from around the globe sprung into action. Our CNN team got exclusive access to one of these groups, flying in to one of the hardest-hit areas in southern Turkey. We hear what survivors are facing now and how politics are complicating the relief efforts on both sides of the border.

Guest: Becky Anderson, CNN International Anchor

Episode Transcript
David Rind
Numbers can be hard to comprehend after a while. Like it's easy enough to visualize a room filled with ten people. But when that number grows larger, it can get a little tougher. Do you really have a sense of what 500 people looks like? A thousand. That's what made the news out of Turkey and Syria last week so horrified. After a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the region, the death toll started out high.
Don Lemon
We begin this morning in Turkey and Syria, where more than 1,500 people are now reported dead.
David Rind
But with each passing day, it just got higher.
Jake Tapper
The death toll at last count has risen to 7,200 people.
David Rind
And higher.
Alisyn Camerota
The death toll is soaring to more than 15,000 people.
David Rind
And higher.
Abby Phillip
Right now, over 20,000 deaths have been confirmed in the earthquake ravaged region. But miracles.
David Rind
This is one of the deadliest earthquake disasters anywhere on planet Earth in more than a decade. And no doubt the death toll will keep rising. But even for those who managed to survive, the pain is just beginning. My guest this week, CNN international anchor Becky Anderson. She got rare access to one of the many relief operations that rushed into the quake zone. We talk about what it looks like there on the ground where survivors go from here and how politics are complicating relief efforts, especially in Syria. From CNN, this is One Thing. I'm David Rind. So, Becky, you're based in Abu Dhabi, but you made your way to the quake zone in Turkey right after we learned about this. How did you get there?
Becky Anderson
Well, we first got reports around 6 a.m. local time here in Abu Dhabi on Monday morning. Look, turkey is no stranger to earthquakes. The location on two major fault lines regularly produces fairly regular tremors. But we very quickly realized the Tharsis region two disaster zones is often with international emergency aid flights who generally work with the local government. So I started working the phones to my contacts to get some sense of what our options were. And quite quickly here, authorities announced what they called Operation Gallant Night to send in search and rescue personnel and equipment. They're also taking in a field hospital and emergency supplies. So by early evening, we had permission to fly in on one of the first C-17 aircraft that the Emiratis were using to ferry supplies. So we got ourselves to the airport as a team and got on board that C-17.
Becky Anderson (in field)
Well, this C-17 is now fully loaded. It's got 22,000 kilograms of equipment on board. I've just been told they're going to leave in about 5 minutes time.
Becky Anderson
Flying in the belly of a C-17 is nothing like a regular flight We boarded at midnight as the plane was being loaded.
Becky Anderson (in field)
These are all medical supplies, surgical isolation gowns, latex gloves, alcohol prep swabs. What else have we got around here?
Becky Anderson
Any personnel or passengers strapped up into what are very, very narrow seats which run alongside the plane? It is cold and is noisy and it is extremely uncomfortable, but it is one of the only ways, if not the only way, to get into the epicenter of a disaster.
Becky Anderson (in field)
Let's, start strapping.
Becky Anderson
We were headed for Adana in southern Turkey, but as we approached Adana, the pilot was instructed by Turkish authorities that there was no capacity. So the equipment that the flight was carrying.
Becky Anderson (in field)
We've just arrived at our final destination...
Becky Anderson
And so we were diverted to Gaziantep. We finally set down there sort of mid-morning on Tuesday morning.
Becky Anderson (in field)
The emergency supplies will now be taken off this to go into the city and deploy to wherever. They all needed most. And we're going to get out and find out what's going on in the city.
David Rind
And so what did you see on the ground?
Becky Anderson
Well, the roads on the way to the city were okay. They weren't destroyed. They were fine. But they were strewn with parked cars full of people who had slept in their cars. They just piled their families into cars and just driven away from the shaking. As we drove into the city, though, it was very clear that many, many people didn't have that luxury.
Becky Anderson (in field)
And it's clear there is nothing left of this building. I mean, this was a seven story building.
Becky Anderson
What we found in the suburb of Ibrahimali in western Gaziantep was just absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking. In one 150 yards strip where we pulled up. There were six buildings which had either partially or wholly collapsed. So in the first building, we were told that there were 24 people inside the building who hadn't been able to escape.
Jim Sciuotto
Are they carrying someone out there? It's hard to tell.
Becky Anderson (in field)
It looks as if they may be.
Becky Anderson
While we were there. Four people were rescued, including a little girl of three years old, a little boy of seven and two adults. They came out literally just as we were arriving, but there were still 20 people in that building that were unaccounted for. And as the hours went past, that search and rescue operation was started and it was stopped, it was started again and was stopped because there were real fears that the entire building that that still existed would collapse.
David Rind
How does a rescue work in a situation like this with just mounds of rubble and chaos everywhere? Like how did they actually approach that?
Becky Anderson
The search and rescue effort is it's chilling to watched the teams and the volunteer is digging with drills and spades and with their bare hands. And every so often, one rescuer will. Sort of call out loud. He'll he'll scream for silence from here.
Becky Anderson (in field)
And I'm just going to go quiet for a moment because he are calling for quiet because this is an extraction. I'm just going to let you.
Becky Anderson
And generators and heavy machinery then switched off and everyone goes completely quiet. And I'm talking about absolute silence. And if you consider this, you know, there are hundreds of people around many of these sites, but it goes completely silent.
Becky Anderson (in field)
Max, what I'm hearing is that there is somebody alive under the rubble. But that generator back on in order to provide some support for the for the machinery here.
Becky Anderson
They turned the generators back on and then they start digging again. And it's clear at that point that they're satisfied that they've heard something. They've got some sign of life to indicate that they should renew their efforts.
Becky Anderson (in field)
Search and rescue, gentlemen, who are now just climbing up to the right hand side of this collapsed building.
Becky Anderson
And on the side that we were on, that happened for 70 hours.
David Rind
Becky Anderson
And I'm going to tell you, I'm pretty sure that there were members of those teams who hadn't stopped. They were switching in and out. But I know that there were members of that search and rescue team and volunteers who didn't stop. They didn't sleep. They were on that site for 70 hours now.
Becky Anderson (in field)
Oh, they're clapping! What, they're clapping!
Becky Anderson
And at the end of that process, one family, one father and two sons were pulled out alive.
David Rind
It's like whatever, whatever it takes. Even if it's just one or two people they're gonna make it work.
Becky Anderson
Whatever it takes, whatever it takes.
Becky Anderson (in field)
Just tell me, first of all, who is going to suffer. How do you know him?
Well, he's one of my friends. And actually, we did the night before we were together, we went to the cinema and it was everything was normal. And after 2 hours, we just separated. And at that night, the earthquake hit so bad. Actually, I was one of the survivor. And. Well, it was horrible. Horrible.
Becky Anderson
We spoke to a guy called out during the time that we were broadcasting Alps friend Mustafa was buried with his father, his brother and his mother.
Becky Anderson (in field)
You had heard from Mustafa?
Yes. Yes, actually. And since then, we're here waiting to hear anything from him.
Becky Anderson
What was the time went on and out was just telling us that he was terribly concerned, even if they'd survived underneath this rubble. He was worried that they would be killed by hypothermia, that they would suffer hypothermia because it was bitterly cold.
I can't I can't believe that he can. You can make it. But, you know, I always have forgotten how my hope was hard at all, was just praying.
Becky Anderson
And I have to say, miraculously, more than 70 hours after the initial quake, Mustafa, his brother and his father were pulled out alive. Their mother, sadly, didn't make it, and at least ten others are still unaccounted for under that building as of yet. And it's very unlikely that anybody more will be pulled out alive.
David Rind
For the people who did manage to make it out alive but no longer have a home to live in. What what are the most urgent needs right now for the survivors? Where did they go? And, you know, are supplies even able to make it in to these areas, especially I'm thinking about across the border in Syria?
Becky Anderson
Yeah, this is a really good question. Let's start with Turkey.
President Erdogan (translation)
On the first day we experienced some issues, but then on the second day and today the situation has been taken under control.
Becky Anderson
The Turkish president has admitted what he describes as his government's shortcomings in response to this massive quake. But he does insist that the situation is now under control. He's been visiting the quake affected areas. He's been consoling victims and he's been pledging to rebuild thousands of flattened homes. But that's not going to happen overnight. What he has ordered is that hotels in Mediterranean resorts open for people who are homeless. But again, you know, not everybody is going to be able to make it anywhere close to those Mediterranean resorts. So at the moment, it's really, really unclear what is going to happen to those who are homeless. The president has declared a three month state of emergency in the ten hardest hit provinces in the south. These are provinces that are traditionally supporters of the president and his AK Party and his. Be quite clear, there is a an election in Turkey in mid-May or certainly that that is what it's scheduled for and how this disaster is going to affect his chances of extending his rule into a third decade is really difficult to assess at the moment. There are those who say, look, you know, this is a region which is not unfamiliar to earthquakes. So, you know, there are those who say, you know, what more could the government have done? But certainly it is party to an awful lot of criticism at this point.
David Rind
Right. And so what about Syria, then? What about that particular situation makes this complicated when it comes to aid and the response, even though it's just right across the border?
Becky Anderson
The big worry here is for the Syrian victims of this earthquake. I've heard one expert describing them as having become hostages of the politics that have divided Syria for over a decade. I have personally heard accounts of people in Aleppo and in Idlib in the northwest of Syria who have no heating, no electricity, no fuel, no water. Towns and villages flattened. Look, let's be quite clear about this. By some accounts, there are 50 million Syrians already in need of humanitarian assistance before this earthquake.
David Rind
Right. This was already bad.
Becky Anderson
Absolutely. Absolutely. Civilian infrastructure, basic services are extremely poor if they exist at all. And 4 million of those Syrians are in rebel held areas of northwest Syria, which are worst hit by this quake and indeed in areas that are government controlled. Most of the humanitarian aid that gets into northwest Syria goes in through one U.N. mandated crossing point, and that is with Turkey. That is right in the heart of the area. Worst hit by this earthquake. What stops the World Food Program says they have a being exhausted very, very quickly. And to replenish them, they say they need access. Apart from that one U.N. mandated crossing. Everything else, as we understand it, is going in through Damascus. But it's not clear that relief will be sent directly on to the people who need it most. And that is the problem.
Salma Abedelaziz
Rescue worker sings too little Mina, talks and shares stories with her.
Becky Anderson
I think by now our listeners may have seen an image of a little girl in Syria. She's seven years old and she's caught underneath a piece of cement, trapped underneath some cement. She's just able to squeeze herself under this block and she's with her little brother, who's a baby.
Becky Anderson
And that image struck me that the rescuers were talking to this little girl and she she said, I'm stuck and do what you can. I I'll do anything for you. She said, I'll come work for you. And she put her head on her baby brother's hand and she just stroked him. That's all she could do. She was trapped. Look, I'm the mother. Of two kids who are quite young. One's nearly three and one's less than a year old. And this story's not about me. But it's difficult to see an image like that without feeling it. Cut to the quick. As a mum, it's not easy when you see a little girl who looks very like your own daughter, you know, talking to rescuers and you just don't know whether that little girl is going to make it. Well, I have to say they did make it.
Salma Abedelaziz
Mina is eventually pulled out safely. Her family has also survived.
Becky Anderson
But so many other little girls and boys didn't make it. The W.H.O. have said that 23 million people are affected by this earthquake. Thousands of them will be children, they say. And the likelihood is that thousands of kids will have lost their lives. So we've got to do whatever it takes to ensure that, you know, as many survive this as possible.
David Rind
Pain all just all around. Becky, thanks so much for the reporting. Really appreciate it.
Becky Anderson
Thank you.
David Rind
One thing is a production of CNN Audio. This episode was produced by Paola Ortiz and me David Rind. Matt Dempsey is our production manager. Faiz Jamil is our senior producer. Greg Peppers is our supervising producer. And Abbie Fentress Swanson is the executive producer of CNN Audio. Special thanks this week to Zena Saifi, Shivon Watson and Zaid Mahmood. Thanks for listening. We'll be back next Sunday. Talk to you then.