A woman who almost lost her life has been reunited with her beloved cat after the earthquake in Turkey and Syria rocked her family.
Behlul was discovered by a team of rescuers from PETA almost a month after the 7.8 magnitude quake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria.
The gray cat was found about three miles from the family’s home in Hatay, just about 100 miles from the quake’s epicenter, Gaziantep.
Hatay, which borders Syria to the south, has one of Turkey’s highest death tolls from the February 6 quake and the hundreds of aftershocks that followed.
PETA Vice President Mimi Bekhechi told Metro.co.uk how her team spotted a dusty Behlul wandering the ruins last Wednesday.
“He was starved and thirsty and wandered through the rubble for weeks,” Bekhechi said.
“The team worked hard to gain his trust then safely caught him and brought him to the wonderful Terapi Veterinary Clinic in Adana.
“We didn’t know his name or his story at the time.”
However, clinicians discovered that the gray cat was microchipped — a rarity among rescued pets, Bekhechi said.
PETA was referred to Elif, who was staying with her grandparents in the southwestern coastal city of Antalya.
Elif was found buried under rubble about 36 hours after the quake flattened the house in a pile of concrete, shredded metal and smashed family jewelry.
Her father and uncle had dug through tons of collapsed floors, walls and pipes to find Elif – her grandparents were among at least 53,000 people who did not survive.
But while Elif, who suffered a leg injury, was taken to a nearby town for treatment, her father Kadir wondered what had happened to Behlul, whom he called his “son”.
Almost three weeks after the earthquake, Bekhechi reached out to the family to let them know their cat had been rescued.
“It was with great anticipation that we called her on FaceTime,” she said. “They got in touch straight away and were overjoyed to see Behlul alive and well.
“As unlikely as it was under the circumstances, the family never gave up hope of finding Behlul.
“When they heard he was alive and in PETA’s care, they traveled to our veterinary clinic,” Bekhechi said, adding that Behlul was again in Elif’s arms that same evening.
“There are many dark and difficult moments in this work, and many stories don’t have happy endings, but I will never forget the joy on their faces and Behlul’s purr when he was reunited with his beloved Elif.”
But for every animal like Behlul rescued, many others remain trapped or displaced, Bekhechi said.
“Like people, other animals were killed, injured and displaced at the earthquake’s epicenter – they too were struck by the terror as their homes were torn apart,” she said.
In the moments leading up to the earthquake, which struck in the early hours of the morning, the family’s pets were likely “curled up in their warm beds.”
For the surviving animals, the tremors were only the first challenge. When their homes are leveled and their owners missing – or worse – every day is a struggle.
“When we arrived, every minute was a struggle for survival for the animals in Kahramanmaraş, Elbistan and other cities badly damaged by the disaster,” Bekhechi said.
“Many of the survivors hobbled through the streets desperate for food and warmth, often with horribly painful injuries they likely sustained when buildings collapsed around them.”
Information on missing animals is sketchy at best and often comes with a time lag, Bekhechi said.
That means Bekhechi and her team would sometimes drive to a site only to find it had already been cleared — with no animals found inside.
Difficult decisions are also made during rescue operations. “Pet overpopulation was a major problem in the country before the earthquakes, with countless cats and dogs relying on leftovers from stores and residents now without a source of food,” Bekhechi said.
“In addition to organizing food donations in the hardest-hit areas, we are also helping with sterilization efforts to prevent more animals from being born into a world where every day is a struggle for survival.”
When she got to Turkey, Bekhechi said she saw “absolutely devastating” scenes. “But beneath the rubble there were moments of hope,” she added.
A “little cat” PETA named Talia was found trudging across Kahramanmaraş in search of food with a dislocated hip.
“Despite her predicament, she gave us a warm welcome and was happy with treats and gentle pets. She has since had surgery and is expected to make a full recovery,” Bekhechi said.
“Shortly after arriving in Kahramanmaraş, we met with local rescuers. They entered a pet store in the basement of a former skyscraper and miraculously pulled out 40 budgies!’ She added.
The herd was treated by a nearby veterinarian before being taken to a sanctuary near Ankara, the capital of Turkey.
“Her glowing feathers,” Bekhechi said, “were such a welcome sight amidst the gray debris.”
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https://metro.co.uk/2023/03/12/cat-reunited-with-family-nearly-a-month-after-turkey-syria-earthquake-18424617/ Cat has been reunited with his family almost a month after the earthquake hit Turkey and Syria