One family grieves its losses and prepares for more

Seismic Activity in Turkey and Turkey During the 2016 April 8 Earthquake: Nature, Risks, Resilience and Future Directions

Deaths in earthquakes are often caused by falling bricks and masonry. The US Geological Survey said that many people affected by the earthquake in Turkey live in structures with unreinforced brick and low-rise concrete frames that are extremely likely to be damaged by shaking.

Rescuers dug through concrete debris to find survivors after the earthquake decimated buildings and killed at least twelve people, with the deaths expected to increase further. Nature spoke to four researchers about the seismic activity in the region and what the next few days will bring.

The North Anatolian Fault and the East Anatolian Fault are the major faults that sit on the Anatolian plate. The plate carrying Arabia, including Syrians, is moving northwards in collision with the southern rim of Eurasia, making it more difficult for Turkey to get to the west. He said that Turkey is moving west at a rate of 2 centimetres per year. Half of the fault is lit up by earthquakes.

Seyhun Puskulcu, a seismologist and coordinator of the Turkish Earthquake Foundation, based in Istanbul, says people in Turkey are well aware of their vulnerability to earthquakes. Puskulcu was delivering workshops on earthquake awareness in Adana, Tarsus and Mersin when this happened.

A study by Arzu Arslan Kelam and her colleagues in March 2016 stated that the centre of Gaziantep would experience moderate damage from a magnitude-6.5 earthquake. Most buildings are low-rise brick structures that are close to each other.

In Syria, more than a decade of conflict has made building standards impossible to enforce. In the aftermath of the earthquake, there were buildings that collapsed in the northwestern regions of Syria. Some war-damaged buildings in Syria have been rebuilt using low-quality materials or “whatever materials are available”, says Rothery. They might have fallen down more quickly than constructions built at a higher cost. We’ve yet to find out,” he adds.

The weather is going to plummet below freezing tonight. That means that people who are trapped in the rubble, who might be rescued, could well freeze to death. So these hazards continue,” he adds.

In Islahiye, dozens of buildings across the city have collapsed. There are a group of residential buildings west of Hac Ali ztrk mosque flattened.

The debris from those two buildings is all over the street. Despite the building underneath collapsing, one of the roofs appears to remain intact.

The town’s “Great Garden,” normally a verdant green space with benches and shops, is now full of tents, likely to shelter survivors and emergency crews.

At least two large high-rise buildings, located just south of the park, have collapsed. There were more collapses on the northern side of the park.

There are a number of vehicles in the area. Like in other parts of the Nurdagi, some of the buildings that are still standing have a significant amounts of debris surrounding them.

Comment on The crisis of Gaziantep in Turkey’s aftermath of a massive earthquake” by H. A. Ozgur

He says that Gaziantep has no food, no money, no credit cards, no form of ID and no way of making a plan. He went to a gas station the day before to see if they would give him a drink or food. He came in with a empty cup.

He wants to be known by his first name, as he risks punishment if he criticizes the government, because he is still a member of the military.

Tens of thousands of buildings have been destroyed. Many residents of the hardest-hit areas, including Antakya and the satellite villages around Gaziantep, have fled to areas like Gaziantep’s city center that remain comparatively unscathed.

Ozgur says that his rescue team doesn’t believe they can find anyone alive under the rubble. He works in construction for a large holding company and asks to only be identified by his first name for fear of reprisal for providing assistance without direct government approval.

He pointed to a collapsed six-story building and said there are as many as 40 people under it. They aren’t going to come out alive.

Families with 8 or more are sleeping on foam mattresses on the ground, as a crowd of white tents is setting up by Turkey’s disaster and emergency relief arm. Wrapped in the clothes they were wearing at the time of the quake, and in donated, colorful blankets, mothers, daughters, brothers and fathers huddle to keep warm.

AFAD has said it has deployed dozens of food trucks and hundreds of thousands of meals, but opposition politicians and members of the public have widely condemned the organization’s response.


The Gaziantep Displaced-People Community in Turkey after the 2004 September 11 Earthquake: A Memorandum to Mr. Faris and his Family

Faris says his family can barely even access the bathrooms for the lines, because there are not enough facilities in the municipal stadium for the hundreds of people temporarily staying there.

He and his mother, three sisters, brother and brother-in-law all have deep purple circles under their eyes and are covered in wounds from falling rubble. Their feet are missing from when they made it out of their home, and their hands are covered in gashes from when they dug each other out.

They were told by police that they had to leave, and that they had shelter and food in Gaziantep. Now, Faris says he regrets the decision to come.

There, several Kurdish migrant families have set up the tents they usually use during the planting season. The community of Genco has been abandoned by the government according to Genco. The neighborhood of Sekiz Subat is less than 2 miles away from where the earthquake occurred.

Hayat Gezer, a 45-year-old woman with a traditional Kurdish tattoo on her chin and a black headscarf, says the group is grappling with the additional stress of legal problems. She says that many members of the community have been imprisoned for crimes, including theft, aiding and abetting terrorism.

The Turkish government has been involved in a conflict with the PKK in southeastern Turkey for over four decades. This has led to persecution of many Kurds for alleged links to the group.


The desperate camp of Derya Demir, 44, who fought for his freedom in the aftermath of a quake in Islahiye, Turkey

The desperation in this camp is clear. A man tried to steal bread from his neighbor’s tent, and then a fight broke out. A young man has to be held back.

People in the camp are a lot more critical of the Turkish government, because of hunger and cold. The soldier says he voted for Erdogan in the past, but he is never going to vote for him again.

ISLAHIYE, Turkey — When volunteer rescue workers pulled Derya Demir, 44, from the rubble of her collapsed apartment in the southeastern Turkish city of Islahiye last Tuesday, her arms were wrapped around her four children.

In the last moments of their lives, crushed under the weight of their shoddily built apartment block, Demir and her sons Emir, 3, and Mehmet Ali, 13, and daughters Damla, 8, and Yagmur, 10, had all clung to each other tight.

Looking at the ruins of the building, Melike Bayar can’t help but cry. Both of their mother and sister are still under the rubble. They have yet to be found. On the night of the quake, Kamil was in a hospital for treatment for his chronic illness.

Younger relatives, including 26-year-old Mehmet Gezici and his wife, Zinan Gezici, 23, who flew in from Paris to help after the quake, are less optimistic. They think that Semra and Sakine are dead.

Buildings in Diyarbakir, Turkey, after the Decay of the December 9, 2001, Earthquake are still under the radar

Many people blame the death toll on a construction industry that is corrupt and does not have implemented regulations. At least a dozen building contractors have been arrested by the Turkish government for their alleged role in the deaths.

On Saturday, Garo Paylan, a representative of the opposition People’s Democratic Party from Diyarbakir, one of the cities affected by the quake, tweeted from the devastated city of Adiyaman that the government was undercounting the dead. Experts believe that as many as 200,000 people could still remain under the rubble. The hope for recovering people alive in both Turkey and Syria is dim, according to search teams.

Dozens of families are waiting to go to the apartment building site. They sit on black plastic chairs facing the rubble, faces twisted in grief. The air is thick with the smell of corpses, of smoke, of chalky concrete. Building dust and ash float and settle on the clothes people have been wearing for the past week.

The first winch, needed to lift concrete, arrived Wednesday, but could only lift 100 tons. The second arrived Saturday, six days after the earthquake. The volunteer crews have only been on the third floor of the building for a week.

The first four children of Derya Demir’s family have been in Colaklar since quake struck, and fortunately, their families still exist

Members of Derya Demir’s family, all Kurdish and originally from the nearby town of Colaklar, have been here since last Monday, shortly after the quake hit. Hidayet, her brother, was the first to arrive and the only one in the group.

Speaking in a shocked voice, he says that he is doing incredibly badly when he is asked how he is. As he speaks, his eyes dart back to the collapsed building where his sister and mother still lie.

People told Hidayet that they heard kids’ screams from the direction of Derya’s apartment. For at least some time after the earthquake, the family believes, the children were alive. They believe help came too late.

They hold each other and warm themselves around a fire that’s been burning for a week as crews wait to find their mother and sister.

Still, they try to share happy memories, and they speak of their loved ones in the present tense. The four young children, and Derya, Sakine, and Semra — all, in their telling, still exist.

An earthquake rescue organization that trains neighborhood searchers and rescuers to provide the first critical hours of the next day: In Arsuz, Turkey

During the pandemic, I joined an organization that trains volunteers for neighborhood search and rescue teams so that each neighborhood has people who know what to do in the first crucial hours. An organization born out of the belief that when an earthquake strikes we would rely on each other and here we are.

The Sehit Zafer Yilmaz apartments folded like a book, so we tried to get to the bedrooms first, but an upstairs bathroom spilled into a downstairs balcony and a kitchen floor dangled above us. So we began to dig at random. We were a loud mess of gendarmerie, miners, construction workers, police, municipal workers, local volunteers and searchers and rescuers, with our jackhammers, hydraulic cutters, shovels, grinder machines, excavator and crane, each of us answering to a different team leader, all of us balancing on a precarious mound of twisted metal and concrete that could tumble at the next aftershock.

One of these new cities is in Arsuz, a town in Turkey’s Hatay province. On a recent day, people came out of their tents and formed a line for lunch – the cooks were serving doner kebab, a classic Turkish dish featuring meat grilled on an open spit. There is a vat of tomato sauce.

Fatma Guner, 60, watched the line grow, but didnt stir from her seat at the edge of a very large communal tent, packed with cots and temporary beds. She says her home in Iskenderun is still standing and she wouldn’t sleep there right now.

The Tent City crisis in Hatay: the need for a proper shelter in the wake of an earthquake, says a mother and daughter

“I’m sick, I have heart disease, and I could get an infection very easily, my immune system is very low,” she says. “I honestly can’t stay here, it’s really crowded.”

She doesn’t know whom to ask for a tent of her own, as other family members claim the only tent allocated to the family.

A lack of tents and other complaints against the government’s response were some of the issues brought up by the people. The AK Party initially said that it had enough tents, but shortages of tents began to show up and they were working to acquire more.

The government has also promised to build 270,000 new homes – built to the highest safety standards and located away from fault lines – within a year. The pledge was greeted with skepticism by politicians.

But regardless of what’s being promised for the future, families in Hatay province left homeless by the earthquake say proper shelter remains an overriding concern.

In another sprawling tent city in Antakya, in central Hatay, Ali Bilir watches his young son and daughter play with their four songbirds, chirping away in two small cages. He says his family is lucky to have only a few injuries from the earthquake, since he was a bus driver.

I was not there as well as three kids and their mother got out. My 12-year-old daughter is in the hospital, she had a leg injury,” he says.


The Bilir tent city of Izmir: Where do you want to live? How I’m going to try to find a home

Bilir says he thinks this tent city is “the most secure place,” because it’s a large open space with no tall buildings near enough to crush them if there’s another earthquake. He says he’s not sure where they might live next, but it could be in a shipping container.

We’ve heard rumors they’re going to give us either money or a container. We want a container. We’re going to live there for awhile, and then maybe I can have a home, if they build it.

Turkey says the first of five ships loaded with what officials are calling “living containers” and other humanitarian aid should reach the area by the first week of March.

Ihsan sevik is watching over two of his children in the tent city. Six-year-old Elif is busy with crayons and a coloring book, giving a camel a coat of the proper shade of brown.

He said he put his old mother on his back, and dragged his two children out of the rubble after his wife took the two kids. He says his mother made it to Izmir to stay with a sister.

He said “a tent” when asked what he needs the most right now. He and his family have been sleeping at a friend’s house some 25 miles away, returning to the camp each day for food – and in hopes of getting their own tent.

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