Four Australians are unaccounted for after the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria as the federal government sends a search and rescue team to help recovery efforts.
The foreign affairs department is providing consular assistance to the families of the nationals who were where the catastrophe struck and to about 40 other Australians and their families who were also in the area.
“We’ve all seen the scenes of devastation, and the stories of human tragedy that we are witnessing,” the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, told the Senate on Wednesday.
“So, if we are able to assist, notwithstanding we are a long way away, I’m sure all of us would want the government to support our personnel to engage in such assistance.”
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, announced a team of 72 defence force personnel would assist local authorities. He said boots would be on the ground in Turkey by the end of the week.
“These urban search and rescue specialists are highly trained to locate, deliver medical assistance to and remove victims who have been trapped or impacted by a structural collapse,” he said.
“I extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the devastating earthquakes and aftershocks in Turkey, Syria and neighbouring countries.
“Our hearts are heavy. It is impossible to look away from the terrible and heartbreaking scenes of loss.”
On Tuesday, Albanese announced Australia would provide $10m in humanitarian assistance to help response efforts.
The death toll from Monday’s quake has risen to nearly 8,000.
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, supported the move and said the scenes following the earthquake were confronting.
“It’s been the history of our country, a very proud history, where we’ve been able to step up … to lend a helpful hand to people in efforts to recover from devastation,” he said.
“We have an obligation to support our friends around the world.”
Many Australians with ties to the region are glued to their televisions and feel helpless watching recovery efforts unfold from the other side of the world, according to Brisbane Turkish Islamic Society board member Sadullah Karatas.
“Everyone’s having a really difficult time and nobody really knows how to process it,” Karatas said
The organisation is collecting donations to go towards medical supplies, food and blankets but Karatas understood some people wished they could do more.
“These are essentially our brothers and sisters who are left under this rubble and because we’re not there we almost feel desperate,” he said.
“We wish we [could] just go and physically take the rubble out ourselves.”