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Elizabeth Edwards
Upper Sixth
West Town

The Hope and Despair of the Turkish Earthquake

The Hope and Despair of the Turkish Earthquake

Sunday 23rd October at 1:41 in the afternoon, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Eastern side of Turkey. At a depth of just 20km, it hit the region of Van with an overall population of 371,713, massively affecting the town of Ercis, 26km south east of the epicenter. Since then over 1,561 aftershocks have occurred, some as high as 6.0 on the Richter scale.

Building destroyed by the earthquake

An update on stated that as of the 30th October, the death toll had sadly passed the 600 mark and over 4,152 had been injured. Around 4,400 people took part in the search and rescue operation, however it was said that the 30th was the last day that searches were to take place. Over 188 people were rescued from the rubble, some of whom had been trapped for days. Daniel Sandford, BBC News correspondent in Ercis told the news what he experienced. “At one collapsed building we found four men delicately passing saucepans full of rubble that were being removed from around their 29-year-old brother, Murat Saglam. He was alive, trapped on the ground floor, pinned between a car and a wall, with seven storeys collapsed on top of him. Their mother said: "None of the brothers has eaten a single thing since yesterday. We spent the night in the car here. But I won’t leave until I see him. When they told me he was still alive I couldn’t believe it. And I won’t believe it until I see him."

One thirteen year old boy, called Serhat Tokay had been buried in the wreckage for an astonishing 100 hours and managed to dig himself out. This happened just after his dad had been told by rescuers that ‘there was no hope of finding him alive’. With people like Serhat still miraculously emerging from the rubble five days after the earthquake, is it right to stop the search and rescue after just a week? With faith now fading fast however it is no surprise that people have stopped the search and instead are beginning to focus on rebuilding their shattered lives. The main priority now for the people of Turkey is demolishing and rebuilding some of the 5,739 households that have been rendered uninhabitable, particularly as the harsh winter is setting in quickly in the high altitude of the Van region.

Map of Turkey showing the epicentre of the earthquake

Approximately 60,000 are currently homeless. The main precedence right now is protecting these vulnerable people from the freezing weather. Over 40,000 tents have been provided as well as 165,000 blankets and almost 6,000 sleeping bags. Over fifty five countries have delivered aid and so far around $7 million has been sent to help the emergency relief efforts. There is 1,710 medical staff in the area, 146 ambulances and 37 kitchens, which have been set up to provide regular hot food. 6,899 stoves have also been distributed. This will, hopefully, at least help to alleviate the potential for further disaster due to the bitter climate. However the earthquake has only exacerbated the problems in this poor area of Turkey, such as a shortage of fuel and food.

As usual only time will tell how the effects of this earthquake will play out. The weather is extremely cold and is due to get worse, and the area itself is poverty stricken. Thousands of defenseless people are relying on aid. We can only hope that the relief effort is administered efficiently and recovery programs are well organised so that the death toll does not rise any further.

Some pictures of the devastation can be found on the BBC News website.

Images on this page taken from

10 November 2011

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