Under the ruins of Antioch... Animal rescue comforts humans

Rescuers in the Turkish city of Antioch, which was devastated by a massive earthquake on February 6, are trying to pull out animals trapped under the rubble whose owners refused to abandon them.

Nazli Jenoçak, one of the residents of the city where 75,44 buildings were destroyed by an earthquake that killed more than <>,<> in Turkey and Syria.

The 47-year-old considers herself lucky that none of her family was injured, even if six of her members currently live in a tent in the middle of a park.

But Nazli had a mission to rescue the two smaller bulls and Noma trapped under the rubble: "Being so quiet makes me cry," she says, as they were so noisy before the quake.

For 11 days, Nazli fed them through a small opening. She then contacted rescuers of Turkey's Haytap Animal Protection Association, and after hours of efforts and with the help of German and Austrian volunteers, the eruption was finally freed Friday from the rubble.

"Haitap" managed to save 900 animals from kittens, dogs, rabbits, cows and birds from the ruins of Antioch, after the owners of these animals contacted the association because they were unable to retrieve them.

At the volunteer camp, rescued animals are celebrated with applause and filmed on mobile phones.

Five Chow Chow dogs are treated and then transferred to an animal shelter outside the affected area. Just like a husky dog and some puppies whose barking fills the place.

Under the association's veterinary tent, a group of kittens fed with a bottle sleep in an incubator. The NGO also provides animal food points throughout the city.

On the ruins that now cover Antioch, animals are often the only signs of life 14 days after the earthquake. A dog falls asleep near a shattered sofa and a kitten cleans himself in a ruined kitchen.

In the Old City, a man rescued two days later from the rubble takes care of a black dazzle found in front of a destroyed building and says, "The owner fled. He stayed here. So we're feeding him."

Nearby, a large dog barks on the first floor of a destroyed house. Evie Spasi, 27, a Haitab volunteer summoned by a neighbour to the scene, said: "He stays in place out of loyalty to his masters."

Finding people alive now is a miracle. So "by saving lives, we can feel some comfort," says the volunteer.

But there are some delightful stories, such as the "ruins" kitten rescued in Gaziantep and who has refused to give up his savior ever since.

Mehdi Fidan, head of Istanbul's veterinary department who treated 300 animals from Antioch, notes that dogs or cats caught under the rubble had access to food or refrigerators, allowing them to hold out longer.

"But when it reaches us, the pupils of the kitten's eyes are dilated. Dogs, on the other hand, refuse to be approached by us. She's traumatic, like humans."

Sometimes their presence is a barrier for research teams, as thermal scanners cannot distinguish between their body temperature and those of humans.

"After hours of efforts, we found a kitten, once rescued, escaped without even meowing for us," a foreign rescuer says in annoyance.