Goal says at least four aid workers still missing in rubble after earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Charity said it was still contacting its 950 staff in Syria amid fears for their safety

A further member of the charity Goal’s aid team in Syria has died in hospital after being pulled from rubble in the northwest the country, with fears that at least four more remain under rubble in Turkey.

The death brought to 27 the number of Goal Workers who have died since the earthquake hit earlier this week. Of the 27, some 26 were Syrian and one was Turkish. The charity has 950 staff in the region all of whom were locals.

Efforts were still underway to contact them all on Friday amid disturbed telecommunications in Turkey and Syria.

Goal’s country director Aleksandar Milutinovic there said in addition to the 27 there were at least four Goal aid workers “under the rubble” in Turkey. He said after four or five days the chances of finding anyone alive were “very, very low” but he said “we are hoping for a miracle. Miracles are needed but we also have to face a harsh reality”.


Mr Milutinovic said the Goal team would not interrupt its search and recovery efforts to celebrate the lives of their colleagues who died. He said it was “heartbreaking but we feel the love of the entire world. We will have time to grieve but right now we must press on”, he said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin expressed his condolences to staff at Goal, as have other charities including Concern Worldwide whose chief executive David Regan said: “our thoughts and sympathies are with their families, friends and colleagues at this devastating time”.

As the number of casualties in the region continues to rise in the southeast provinces of Turkey and neighbouring northwest Syria, more than18,000 people have been confirmed dead by Turkish authorities. More than 74,000 people are wounded and thousands more remain under the rubble. In Northwest Syria, more than 2,000 people have been confirmed dead, and over 2,950 are injured. Many more are trapped under the rubble.

The earthquakes caused human and material losses in 10 provinces, and over 13 million people were affected.

The charity which has been operating in northwest Syria since 2012 and in Turkey since 2016 said it is still trying to account for all its workers in the region. Mary Van Lieshout, the charity’s deputy CEO said “we have 950 staff they are all of them local people, that is the best way to do aid. She told RTE’s radio that “They are all true Goalies though our 3,000 staff around the world today are collectively in grief for those we have lost”.

In northwest Syria, at least 60,000 people have been left without shelter and have very little access to services and assistance.

Goal said its staff were regrouping where they are able to do so, and were starting to deliver flour to bakeries it supports in Idleb and northern Aleppo. But it said humanitarian needs were very high with the earthquake affecting people already displaced because of conflict..

The charity said its current priority in northwest Syria was to ensure that staff are safe and protected.

In addition to medical aid, tents and other shelter items, heating material, food, water, and fuel to power electric generators are urgently needed, the charity said. “Where shops are open, cash distributions will also be helpful for people to access essential supplies”, a spokeswoman added.

Goal has appealed for help, particularly for funds to be donated through its website Goal.ie.

The appeal is separate to efforts from the Irish Emergency Alliance, an alliance of six Irish humanitarian organisations which have called for help.

Irish Emergency Alliance members Action Aid, Christian Aid, Plan International, Tearfund, Trocaire and world Vision Ireland, are responding to the crisis by fundraising to provide food, water, blankets, hygiene kits and shelter.

Irish Emergency Alliance executive director, Brian Casey, said: “This is a time for concerted, united action. The impacts of these earthquakes has been devastating. In the midst of an already harsh winter, vulnerable children, families and others have been shaken to the core by the devastating earthquakes which have killed thousands in Northern Syria and Southern Turkey.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it has sent a member of its UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) panel of people who can deploy at short notice, to Turkey. A spokesman said the panel was in place to provide personnel to help co-ordinate the humanitarian response to large-scale disasters. Ireland has four members on the UNDAC panel. The Department’s aid arm, Irish Aid, also operates its own rapid response roster of people with experience in responding to large-scale disasters. However Irish Aid has not as yet been asked to deploy experts from its own panel. It said it remained ready and willing to do so “if and when our UN partners request assistance”.

The Church of Ireland’s world aid and development programme, Bishops’ Appeal, has also launched a call for donations to support relief efforts in Turkey and Syria. Funds will be channelled through Christian Aid

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter