A veteran of disaster relief has revealed that the earthquake in Turkey is the worst he has ever seen.
Steve Davies of the Mid and West Wales Fire Service has already contributed to disasters in Japan, Haiti, Nepal, Indonesia.
He is currently located in Antakya, in southern Turkey, a city now reduced to rubble.
Since the Disaster Emergencies Committee launched an appeal on Thursday, £1.2m has been raised in Wales, for a total of £32.9m.
Mr Davies, from Swansea, is the deputy head of the UK’s international search and rescue team.
He said: “To witness firsthand and see the scale of the disaster in the affected area is quite incredible.
“It’s a huge, vast area that was absolutely devastated by the earthquake.
“We’ve been having aftershocks all week since we’ve been here, and these are much smaller than the mainshocks, so they must have been huge.”
The death toll has now passed 20,000.
The 51-year-old’s team tried to move quickly to cover as many sites as possible.
“If we can’t identify the possibility of a live rescue, we have to move forward because we’re trying to save as many people as possible, so it’s been really difficult in that respect,” Davies said.
“We had live victims every day.”
The window of survival was closing rapidly, he said.
“My team and I have been to Japan, Haiti, Nepal, Indonesia. We work with our international colleagues and train for these events, but this is huge.
“Everyone is saying the same thing, because of the extent of the devastation, most of the buildings were hit and they were flattened, where as in other places individual sites may have been hit.”
Mr Davies believed this to be the worst disaster he had seen.
“We are seeing firsthand the impact on families and survivors who are still trying to reach their loved ones,” she said.
“We’re seeing a lot of things that I don’t think anyone would want to see in their lifetime.
“But the rewards of trying to save someone and seeing the joy on a mother’s face when you give their child back, you can’t put a value on that.”
They rescued six people this week.
He said, “That’s why we’re here. So we’ll be back in a good mood.”
Meanwhile, Halit Sevim, from Llangollen, Denbighshire, had booked a trip to Diyarbakir, where he was born, before the earthquakes hit.
Now going on February 26th with two friends to view the damages and take donations.
His cousin’s house, he said, was destroyed.
“I know many relatives have lost friends and neighbors,” she said.
His cousin’s house was so damaged he couldn’t enter it, and he added, “My cousin lost his house, so he can’t go in anymore because of the damage.”
A former colleague, he said, found out on Friday that his father had been killed.
Two days earlier he had learned that his mother had died.
Dee Side Bistro in Llangollen has launched an appeal for donations that Mr Sevim and owner Huseyin Duyar will bring to Turkey.
Dozens of bags of clothes and blankets were deposited at the farm.
“We’ll take whatever we can and anything else we’ll take to Manchester to have a lorry pick it up,” Sevim said.
DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said: “The stories we are hearing from survivors who managed to escape the ruins of razed buildings and without shoes and coats in the dead of winter are desperately sad.
“It’s hard to understand what they and their families are going through.
“But what we do know is that help has already been provided by 14 of our member charities using funds donated to DEC. They are providing hot meals, blankets and medical assistance.”
UK Government Development Minister Andrew Mitchell said: ‘It is thanks to the generosity and compassion of the British people that DEC’s Turkey-Syria earthquake appeal has reached a stunning total of 32.9 million in the space of hours. £, which includes £5 million in UK taxpayer funding.”