Cold, rain and stress do not stop the battle for every human life

Earthquake Turkey/ Photo Sertac Kayar / Sputnik / Profimedia

Hope always exists. After more than twenty hours of the catastrophic earthquake that hit Southeastern Turkey, survivors, children and even babies are being pulled out hour by hour from the ruins of buildings leveled to the ground.

Rescuers don't stop. In the face of enormous stress, but also cold and rain, they work persistently for hours, with the help of thermal cameras, with sensitive acoustic devices to hear even the quietest voice, and with the indispensable help of dogs trained to sniff out people in disasters.

Turkish media are broadcasting these, as they call them, "miracle rescues". All of Turkey is focused on the consequences of this tragedy and is united in solidarity and sending all kinds of help to its suffering fellow citizens. Aid and messages of sympathy are arriving from all over the world, including neighboring Greece and the United States. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared seven days of national mourning.

The earthquake in Turkey/ Photo EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

Fuat Oktay, an aide to President Erdoğan, said that by noon yesterday, more than 8.000 people who were buried had been rescued. The death toll, unfortunately, is not even final, and is increasing by the hour. Oktay announced yesterday that 3.149 dead people were registered, but warned that there are actually many more victims. 20.434 people were injured, but even this balance is not final, because it is still not known what the situation is in many isolated villages.

After the first two strong earthquakes in an interval of 9 hours – the first with a magnitude of 7,7 and the second with a magnitude of 7,6 – another 312 tremors were registered in the wider region covering ten major Turkish provinces. After the strongest earthquake, there were 3 more with a magnitude above 6 on the Richter scale, which are catastrophic in their own right, as well as another 24 with an intensity between 5 and 6 degrees, strong enough to damage buildings and threaten lives.

Thousands of people were left without homes, and even those whose homes remained intact are afraid to return to them. The authorities are warning citizens not to enter the buildings until special services determine whether the buildings are completely healthy or damaged and may collapse during a stronger earthquake.

After a rainy evening, yesterday the weather conditions improved and allowed the landing of planes, which arrive from all directions, full of rescue teams, machinery and basic products to help the victims. Helicopters were involved in the rescue activities and the situation is being monitored from the air. Authorities are appealing to citizens not to travel unnecessarily, after on Monday a long line of vehicles with people leaving the affected region paralyzed traffic and blocked the work of rescue teams and the delivery of aid.


12.181 rescuers and 4.191 bulldozers and other large machinery are officially involved in the rescue activities. About 5.000 buildings were razed to the ground. Some collapsed in the first and strongest tremor, and others, who were shaken, gave way in one of the aftershocks, especially after the 7,6-magnitude one that struck in the afternoon.

Even experienced rescuers were startled by the earthquake's destructive power. Against the cold and rain, everyone helped who could, clearing rubble with bare hands to reach deeper and hear voices. In many cases, it is difficult to break through to the voices asking for help, but every saved life re-energizes the rescuers and gives hope to those who have lost their loved ones. There is a battle against time. Every hour counts, especially since it's expected to get colder by the end of the week.

The earthquakes were felt in a radius of 1.000 kilometers – to Istanbul in the northwest, to Cairo in the southwest and to Baghdad in the southeast. Hundreds of people have also died in Syria, especially in regions near the border with Turkey. The earthquake directly affected the lives of 13,5 million people. The state with the help of the people, under the coordination of the State Institution for Dealing with Disasters and Emergencies (AFAD), is trying to help those affected in the region. So far, 4.000 tents have been distributed, and it is planned to deliver another 10.000, as well as a hundred containers for caring for people.

The Minister of Ecology, Urbanism and Climate Change, Murat Kurum, stated that temporary and permanent residences will be provided for those affected by the earthquake. On the other hand, news is coming in of cut off areas in the affected region awaiting aid.

Photo: Adem ALTAN / AFP / Profimedia

After a building completely collapsed in Hatay province, and others in a large apartment block around were not badly damaged, experts warned again that "it's not the earthquake that kills, but the buildings." There were such examples in many places. Experts warn that it is important to build seismically resistant buildings, but it is even more important to prohibit the construction of residential buildings on areas that are considered critical. Minister Kurum adds that 70 percent of Turkey's population lives in seismically active regions. The provinces that were directly affected by the series of devastating earthquakes are Karamanmarash, Kilis, Diyarbakir, Adana, Osmaniye, Gaziantep, Şanlıurfa, Adıyaman, Malatya and Hatay.

The catastrophic earthquake that hit the region on the morning of February 6, with an epicenter in the Karamanmarash province, was assessed by experts as the "catastrophe of the century" and indicated that it was the strongest earthquake since the one in Erzincan since 1939. Koray Onalan, president of the Izmir branch of the Chamber of Geologists of Turkey, points out that this is the biggest earthquake disaster in the history of the Republic. The Erzincan earthquake was more powerful (magnitude 7,9), but this time a series of earthquakes struck, not just one. An earthquake in this seismically active region is not a big surprise, because one of the two major fault lines in Turkey – the Eastern Anatolian fault line, in which two tectonic plates collide, passes through that area. The 550-kilometer-long fault starts at the Dead Sea and runs all the way to Bingol Province in Turkey, where it connects with the North Anatolian Fault Line. It does not represent a whole but consists of segments, Onalan pointed out.

GALLERY | The tragedy in Turkey and Syria in twenty photos

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