Turkey earthquake survivors face despair
ADIYAMAN, TURKEY >> Thousands left homeless by a massive earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria a week ago packed into crowded tents or lined up in the streets for hot meals Monday, while the desperate search for anyone still alive likely entered its last hours.
One crew wrested a 4-year-old girl from rubble in hard-hit Adiyaman, 177 hours after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck. Thousands of local and overseas teams, including Turkish coal miners and experts aided by sniffer dogs and thermal cameras, are scouring pulverized apartment blocks for signs of life.
While stories of nearmiraculous rescues have flooded the airwaves in recent days — many broadcast live on Turkish television and beamed around the world — tens of thousands of dead have been found during the same period. Experts say given temperatures that have fallen to minus 6 degrees Celsius (21 degrees Fahrenheit) — and the total collapse of so many buildings — the window for such rescues is nearly shut.
The quake and its aftershocks, including a major one nine hours after the initial temblor, struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on Feb. 6, killing more than 35,000 and reducing whole swaths of towns and cities inhabited by millions to fragments of concrete and twisted metal.
Damage included heritage sites in places like Antakya, an important ancient port and early center of Christianity historically known as Antioch. Greek Orthodox churches in the region have started charity drives to assist the relief effort and raise funds to eventually rebuild or repair churches.
Some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the epicenter, almost no houses were left standing in the village of Polat, where residents salvaged refrigerators, washing machines and other goods from wrecked homes.
Not enough tents have arrived for the homeless, said survivor Zehra Kurukafa, forcing families to share the tents that are available.
“We sleep in the mud, all together with two, three, even four families,” said Kurukafa.
Turkish authorities said Monday that more than 150,000 survivors have been moved to shelters outside the affected provinces. In the city of Adiyaman, Musa Bozkurt waited for a vehicle to bring him and others to western Turkey.
“We're going away, but we have no idea what will happen when we get there,” said the 25-year-old. “We have no goal. Even if there was (a plan) what good will it be after this hour? I no longer have my father or my uncle. What do I have left?”
But Fuat Ekinci, a 55-year-old farmer, was reluctant to leave his home for western Turkey despite the destruction, saying he didn't have the means to live elsewhere and had fields that need to be tended.
“Those who have the means are leaving, but we're poor,” he said. “The government says, go and live there a month or two. How do I leave my home? My fields are here, this is my home, how do I leave it behind?”
Volunteers from across Turkey have mobilized to help millions of survivors, including a group of volunteer chefs and restaurant owners who served traditional food such as beans and rice and lentil soup for survivors who lined up in the streets of downtown Adiyaman.
Other volunteers continued with the rescue efforts. After rescuers pulled out the 4-year-old, a relative told HaberTurk television that more loved ones were inside the building.
As the scale of the disaster comes into view, sorrow and disbelief have turned to rage over the sense there has been an ineffective response to the historic disaster. That anger could be a political problem for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces a tough reelection battle in May.
Meanwhile, rescue workers, including coal miners who secured salvage tunnels with wooden supports, found a woman alive Monday in the wreckage of a five-story building in Turkey's Gaziantep province.