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Szegedi Tudományegyetem Szent-Györgyi Albert Orvostudományi Kar

University of Szeged
Albert Szent-Györgyi Medical School
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Doctors from Szeged help victims of the Turkey earthquake in a dramatic fight

A special unit of the Hungarian Counter-Terrorism Centre (TEK) arrived in Antakya (Turkey) with a medical team on 8 February.

According to the Directorate General for Disaster Management, this special TEK unit of 16 people - nine medical and seven alpine and technical specialists - joined the HUNOR heavy urban search and rescue team. The nine-strong medical staff providing emergency care included a military doctor and six civilian doctors, three of them from Szeged: Zoltán Pető, head of the Emergency Care Unit at the Albert Szent-Györgyi Clinical Centre, who took part in the mission with his colleague Tamás Hardi and anaesthetist Tamás Molnár.


When the Szeged doctors arrived in Turkey, they got to work immediately, being directed by the Turkish authorities to the highest residential buildings in Antakya. The fourteen and seventeen-storey apartment blocks were levelled to the ground, with some three thousand people under the rubble.

Zoltán Pető, still under the impact of the events, said that the words ’astonishing, tragedy, shocking’ do not adequately reflect what they had experienced. The medical team worked in three-man shifts, alternating 24-hour shifts with a few hours of sleep, and their heated mobile hospital provided emergency care for about 20 people. According to Zoltán Pető, five of them would certainly not have survived if they had not received immediate medical assistance.

Most patients needed emergency care because of severe dehydration, hypothermia, wounds and bruises. After their condition had been stabilised, they were handed over to the Turkish ambulance service, who took them to the nearest hospital.


’We worked with the emergency services and other rescue teams on the scene, but we had by far the most complex medical capacity and capability’. said Zoltán Pető. A Turkish medical team was also on the scene, but they were unable to attend to the more complex cases. Only the heated Hungarian mobile hospital had beds, ventilators, monitors and defibrillators, an anaesthetist capable of performing surgery on site, emergency doctors, an internist and a paediatric intensivist on standby. The ambulance crew was accompanied by demolition specialists, who could also go under the rubble to pick up the injured if the situation allowed. HUNOR used dogs and TEK searched for survivors by tracking the radio signals of phones, as locals reported that several people trapped under the rubble were messaging on Messenger and Twitter.


On the first day they did not even want to go to bed because they wanted to save as many people as possible, but later they realised they had to rest. They were able to work continuously by taking turns to sleep a few hours amid the racket of demolition. The place can no longer be called a city; what remains is merely dust, rubble, the sound of the machines and the silent sorrow of the people. ’As an emergency care physician, I was trained for mass disasters, but it is something you cannot prepare for. What we went through, will stay with us forever’ Zoltán Pető added.


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