6. 2. 2023
Written by Kerem
On Monday 6th of February two earthquakes struck Southern Turkey, affecting approximately 14 million people in an area bigger than the Czech Republic. Over 30,000 people have been recorded to have died and more than 80,000 people have been found injured. Unfortunately, the numbers are still increasing, and the Turkish authorities have called for help from the international community. The situation is desperate and the whole nation is in a collective effort to recover from the deep wounds this event has opened.
At 04:17 in Kahramanmaraş (a city in Southern Turkey), the first earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 occurred and caught people in 10 surrounding cities while asleep. Immediately after the first earthquake, the government called for help from the international community and directed rescue teams to the location. However, the first aid that went there was mainly from charities and volunteers, especially the AHBAP charity, which was founded by a Turkish Singer named Haluk Levent.
The charity has proven its worth by taking action in various other disasters that have affected Turkey as well as funding non-profit organisations. The second earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 occurred in the same city and enhanced the damage already caused. Despite the inefficiency of the state in handling this situation, the people of the world and Turkey have shown great success in taking care of people and rescuing them. Many countries have sent rescue teams including the Czech Republic and countries like India, South Korea and Taiwan, which are quite far from Turkey.
Photo: “Mesut Hancer holds the hand of his daughter, Irmak, 15, who died when the quake struck Kahramanmaras, Turkey on February 6, 2023”, author: Adem Altan, correspondent.afp.com
After the first day of this event, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency in the region alongside a 7 day national mourning period. According to rumours, approximately 200,000 people are still under the rubble and waiting for help due to a lack of coordination caused by both the unreadiness of the state and damaged infrastructure. Also, there have been a couple of situations where rescue teams could hear people under the rubble but lacked the necessary instruments for a rescue. Besides this, due to winter temperatures that vary among the cities between -10 and 2 degrees Celsius, many people are reported to have died due to hypothermia - even among the rescued - as there was a lack of amenities in the area. In an effort to cover up the government’s failure, Erdoğan limited access to Twitter nationwide, which has been used as the primary means of communication in order to communicate with people under the rubble and get the rescue teams to their location.
“It is not the earthquake that kills, rather the buildings, we must learn to live with it and take precautions accordingly”.
This decision caused massive outrage among the Turkish people and they took a back step from this action. It has also been reported that the whole aid campaign was turned into a political race by members of the leading party in Turkey, AKP, sticking their party’s posters onto the aid boxes, even onto ones that did not belong to them. On top of all of these scandals, the hawkish public speeches targeting the critics were done by government officials. Even with statements like "opening the old books”, which means “to settle accounts with someone” in Turkish, being used by the president himself.
Another important fact is that, since the earthquake in 1999, the Turkish parliament has announced a new tax specifically for earthquake precautions. Taxpayers have contributed 88b Turkish liras ($4.6bn), and despite the fact that this money is more than enough to take the necessary precautions for at least minimising the death toll, it was mainly spent in other areas, neglecting the earthquake potential of Turkey, a country that lies on two major fault lines. When met with questions about what has happened to this money, one official stated that the fact that it is called “earthquake tax” does not necessarily mean that it should be spent on earthquake precautions. This is one of the many examples of how corruption in Turkey has enhanced the damage of this disaster.
Photo: “An aerial view of a damaged building after an earthquake in Adana, Turkey on Feb. 06, 2023”, author: Oguz Yeter, Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Considering all this, Turkish people are facing their greatest humanitarian disaster right now and this collective trauma is expected to have impacts on the minds of the population as a whole, rather than just individuals. This event also demonstrates the corruption in the government ranks as the state that had relied on people all this time was called on for help once and they failed terribly. Lastly, to emphasise the importance of precautions against earthquakes we can look at what Erdoğan himself said years ago, “It is not the earthquake that kills, rather the buildings, we must learn to live with it and take precautions accordingly”.
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