Starlight, star bright: Turkiye quake victims grateful for Armed Forces’ relief mission

KUALA LUMPUR: The gratitude of earthquake survivors in Turkiye is fresh in the mind of Lt-Gen Datuk Dr Zulkeffeli Mat Jusoh, as fresh as the taste of a simple roadside kebab, after the Op Starlight mission to build a field hospital in that country.

Recalling the episode, the Malaysian Armed Forces Health Services director-general said he and his team were travelling from Gaziantep, one of the worst-hit areas at ground zero, to the field hospital in Adiyaman and stopped at a kebab stall.

He said upon learning that the team was from Malaysia, the vendor refused to accept a single lira despite the utter devastation and uncertainty in the aftermath of the Feb 6 earthquake which had claimed thousands of lives.

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“They (the Turkish people) would say ‘thank you’ in any way possible. They welcomed our presence. Although our contribution is small, the government’s initiative to send a medical team paints a picture of boundless brotherhood (to show) that we will help in times of trouble (across) national borders,” he said in an interview after returning to Malaysia on Friday (Feb 17).

Dr Zulkeffeli said the kebab vendor’s gesture was just one of many moving moments experienced by the 106 Malaysian medical personnel on the frontline of humanitarian efforts there.

In addition, he and his team were also visited by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from Cappadocia, about 500km from Adiayaman.

He said they came to the field hospital to personally express their appreciation to the Malaysian team.

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“When we touched down at Istanbul airport and were about to pray, an elderly gentleman prayed in profuse supplication for our team so that our aid mission would face no obstructions. There were also umrah pilgrims just landed from Makkah who gave us bread, MasyaAllah,” he said.

The team also received help from various NGOs and people who offered services such as translation, fuel for gen-sets, special hats for winter, food and more.

“There were also NGOs (who went to) the villages to bring patients needing treatment to us. We were in effect acting as a referral hospital, (because) an existing hospital nearby… was affected by the earthquake,” Dr Zulkeffeli said.

He also commended the Armed Forces personnel and medical officers who kept their spirits up in the face of adversity like freezing temperatures, rudimentary shelter and lack of winter clothing to shield them from the bitter cold.

“I am proud of those who gave their all to help the victims of the earthquake in Turkiye,” he said.

On Saturday (Feb 18), Op Starlight 2 commander Brig-Gen Datuk Dr Amran Amir Hamzah said the field hospital in Celikhan, Adiyaman, located about 152km from Gaziantep, has treated a total of 164 patients including expectant mothers and children since it opened on Feb 14.

The hospital has a 60-bed capacity and is equipped with an operating theatre, intensive care unit (ICU), radiology and laboratory facilities to help earthquake victims.

It also provides nine specialties: primary medicine, orthopaedics, surgery, anaesthesia, maxillofacial reconstructive surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, ophthalmology and emergency care. – Bernama