Searches for survivors: 'people imagine voices and die asleep from the cold'

Survivor searches: “people imagine voices and die asleep in the cold»


A dog handler who went on a rescue mission in Antakya, Turkey, was confronted with heartbreaking scenes in this city 70% destroyed by the two earthquakes that occurred in the middle of the night on Monday.  

Patrick Vyllardry, president of the Light Intervention and Rescue Unit, recounted the difficult moments of his last days. 

Particularly cold temperatures make rescues more and more urgent, and the state of health of the trapped victims, precarious. 

If his team managed to save two people , Patrick Vyllardry admits: the number of bodies recovered is very high.

“It happened at four in the morning. People are all in bed in their pajamas or nightgowns. At the jolt, they wake up, they go out and unfortunately it collapses when they are in the stairwells. We found a lot of bodies in the stairwells, or in the bedrooms,” explains Mr. Vyllardry.

  • Listen to the interview with Augustin Théodore Debsi on Philippe-Vincent Foisy's show broadcast live every day via QUB radio : 

Intertwined Dead 

Every day, particularly difficult situations arise. 

“Yesterday, for example, we found a family on the first floor. When we dug with the jackhammers, we realized that the dad had his whole family in his arms against him. He had the five people glued to him. The whole team was affected by that. We're having trouble,” says the dog handler. 

The announcement to loved ones that no one is alive under the rubble is also particularly distressing. 

A particularly disturbing psychological phenomenon has also been noted on several occasions by Patrick Vyllardry.  

Done to fetch a baby from under the rubble, neither the dogs nor the cameras or microphones registered any sign of life. Yet relatives were convinced they had heard it. 

“It’s in people’s heads, they imagine noises and pass on this information. You have to be psychological,” he continues. 

She imagines another to survive 

“Yesterday, we took a lady out and she was telling us that there was still someone alive inside, that she was talking to her. But in fact, it is not true that she was talking to him. It was with the cold, the fatigue, without eating or drinking, she had created someone to talk to in order to stay alive. When you have reached that point, it is your survival instinct!”

However, not all victims are lucky enough to find a way to survive, especially with the cold when it is between 0 and -2 degrees Celsius in this place. 

“The human body is extremely powerful, but when it falls into hypothermia, people fall asleep and unfortunately do not wake up again,” he concludes. 

How rescues are carried out ?

“When we arrive at a collapsed building, whatever it is, we send the dog first. We make a reconnaissance, we look. If the dog marks a spot and turns and marks, it's fumes that come out of the ground.”

The spot is then confirmed by a second dog. 

“If we really have any doubts, we go out with the 360-degree cameras that we integrate into the hole and we listen at the same time. From there, we proceed with diggers, or by hand, we take out the rubble. We proceed by stripping, we reduce until we reach the victim. »