The deadliest earthquake to hit Turkey in recent memory claimed 38 lives, injuring 1,607. At the epicenter of the earthquake, in the eastern province of Elazığ, search and rescue crews continued combing the rubble for potential survivors on Sunday, two days after a tremor with a magnitude of 6.8 shook the province.
The tremor was felt across the region, from northern Turkey to Syria which is located south of Elazığ, reaping havoc in its wake. However, a rapid response by the state joined with an outpouring of aid and assistance from across Turkey as well as abroad has since helped lift the spirits of survivors.
People from across the country mobilized within hours to send whatever they could to survivors, including a child in the northwestern city of Edirne who placed a toy among blankets and heaters donated for survivors and an animal breeder in the eastern province of Erzurum who sent two sheep for survivors.
Unlike the 1999 earthquake that killed thousands across northwestern Turkey, the state was quick to respond, with search and rescue crews deployed to the region within hours. All public agencies and nongovernmental organizations such as the Turkish Red Crescent mobilized almost within an hour to save the victims and deliver aid to survivors who had to spend the weekend outside in freezing below-zero temperatures. From soldiers to volunteers to charities, everyone rushed to Elazığ as well as Malatya, the second most affected province, in the aftermath of the disaster. More than 8,000 tents and tons of food poured in while mobile kitchens were set up to help residents of the two provinces.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also visited the affected areas while ministers remain on the scene to help coordinate search and aid efforts.
Truckloads of aid were dispatched to the region, with the contribution by business associations and municipalities which organized the campaigns to help survivors. Meanwhile, the Turkish Red Crescent and the state-run Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) coordinated efforts for more assistance.
The presidency website, which usually serves as a portal for citizens to air complaints or make suggestions for public services, was flooded with messages offering assistance. Communications Director of the Turkish Presidency Fahrettin Altun shared some of the messages on his Twitter account, including that of a family offering to shelter a surviving family and a university student asking if she could help care for children who survived the disaster.
Speaking before leaving for a state visit to Algeria, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey was healing the wounds of a great disaster "with unity and togetherness." "All the personnel and equipment etc. needed were deployed to the disaster zone in a very short time. All measures for search and rescue, for the evacuation of the wounded and their treatment, for the care of our citizens who lost their homes in the earthquake were taken rapidly," Erdoğan assured the public.
"The solidarity shown by all members of our nation, from the youth to the elderly, with their brothers and sisters in the earthquake area, is something to be appreciated. I personally saw these efforts both in Elazığ and Malatya. I am also grateful for all public personnel, from the gendarme to staff from the AFAD and Turkish Red Crescent, who have worked ceaselessly to rescue people," he said.
Condolences and offers for support also poured in following the earthquake. Among them were French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who offered support for relief and rescue efforts.
Rapid airbridge to Elazığ
In a matter of hours following the earthquake, Turkey organized an impressive airbridge operation to reach the people in affected areas. A total of five aircraft were engaged in the operation, according to flight data. Airbus A400M military transport planes left central Kayseri province in less than 30 minutes after the tremor struck at 8:55 p.m. local time. Three of them flew to Istanbul, while two others went to Ankara.
Shortly before midnight, the jets were already flying toward Elazığ with necessary supplies to help the victims. By 3 a.m. the aircrafts returned.
Sports world offers assistance
Cleveland Cavaliers player and Turkish international Cedi Osman launched a campaign for earthquake victims and the campaign saw the collection of around $65,000 after the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls game on Saturday evening. On Saturday, Osman announced via Twitter that he would donate $100 for every three-pointer made during the game.
Some Turkish athletes, including footballers Arda Turan, Nuri Şahin, Yusuf Yazıcı and basketballer Işıl Alben also pledged to donate to the campaign. Osman's teammate Larry Nance Jr. also took part in the donation, even increasing the limit for every hit three-pointer for Cedi and himself to $200. The Chicago Bulls won the match 118-106, with a total of 25 three-pointers made during the game. After the game, Osman tweeted that at least 385,000 Turkish Liras (almost $65,000) had been raised.
In Istanbul, fans of Süper Lig club Fenerbahçe showered the pitch with scarves and beanies bearing the team's colors during a match on Saturday evening, the home crowd chanting that the club's fans would not let the quake victims feel the cold. Winter essentials will be taken to Elazığ where winter conditions are generally harsh.
Aid and assistance from Syrians
Everyone offered aid no matter how little they could afford, for quake victims. A group of women from Afrin, Syria, a part of the war-torn country liberated from the terrorist group with the assistance of Turkey, was among those sending aid. The women, themselves living in poor conditions, made packs of olive, soap and winter clothing they had sewn themselves to deliver to AFAD.
Mahmoud al-Osman, a fellow Syrian, who arrived from Syria's Hama to continue his studies in Turkey two years ago, saved a couple trapped in the debris of their house. Dürdane Aydın, whose video went viral as she described how a young Syrian saved her life, was later able to reunite with the young man she knew only by his first name, on Sunday, hours after she and her husband Zülküf were brought to a hospital for treatment. Anadolu Agency (AA) located Mahmoud and arranged a meeting between the couple and a Syrian man, who arrived in Elazığ three months ago to attend university from Hatay, the southern province in which he took shelter after fleeing war in Syria. Al-Osman was out for jogging when the earthquake struck Elazığ on Friday evening. He was passing by Sürsürü neighborhood where several buildings collapsed in the earthquake. "I heard people screaming from the rubble. I tried to remove the debris with my hands and soon others came to help me. We first removed a man and then I tried to remove the debris fell on the woman," he recounted the moments of rescue. Al-Osman himself was injured while trying to move the debris but he dismissed it. "This is nothing for me. It matters more to have her rescued," he said.
Dürdane Aydın was emotional when she saw the photos of al-Osman the AA correspondents showed her to confirm if it was the young man who rescued her. "This is the boy. I can't forget his eyes," she exclaimed. The couple and their rescuer reunited in the house of couple's parents in a village of Elazığ. Dürdane Aydın burst into tears when she saw him, with scars on his arms. When Aydın found out that al-Osman left his mother back in Syria, she said, "Don't worry. I am now your mother and sister from now on."
"I couldn't imagine being rescued, but when we saw a light coming from above, my husband whistled," Dürdane Aydın recounted the moments before their rescue. The light was from al-Osman's cellphone. "He first pulled my husband out and then helped me. I saw blood pouring from his hands but he did not care: 'Sister, be careful, there is glass everywhere' he was telling me," she said. "He is our hero. I've been looking for him ever since we were rescued." Zülküf Aydın said Mahmoud did what few people could do, sacrificing himself to rescue others. "We were so desperate. Mahmoud helped us and the others under the rubble. We then looked for him around the collapsed buildings but could not find him," he said.
Mother, baby rescued after 24 hours
A mother and her 2.5-year-old daughter were rescued miraculously 24 hours after the earthquake. They were trapped under the debris of their house in the Mustafa Paşa neighborhood. Turkish gendarme crews first rescued Yüsra Yıldız before rescuing mother Ayşe Yıldız four hours later.
The rescue operation was caught on camera. "Do you hear me?" one team member asked. "I do," Ayşe Yıldız answered. "Please rescue me for God's sake," she whimpered, telling the rescuers about her child. "I can see you," she told her rescuer. The child was rescued first and carried in the arms of the rescuers. "Your mother is coming," one of them said, trying to comfort the baby. "Hang in there, sweetheart."
Aftershocks still felt in the region
At least 678 aftershocks, including 20 above a magnitude of 4.0 have been recorded in the region since the quake, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced Sunday. Soylu was joined by Minister of Environment and Urban Planning Murat Kurum and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca at a press conference in Elazığ to update the media on the latest developments.
The minister said 45 people had been pulled alive from the rubble so far, with 31 having died in Elazığ and four others in Malatya.
Soylu stated that aftershocks were reoccurring alongside search and rescue operations, debris removal work was continued. "Crews pulled out the last survivor from the rubble in Mustafa Paşa," he said, referring to an Elazığ neighborhood which was among the most affected places. He noted that six people were still trapped under the rubble as of Sunday afternoon in Sürsürü, another devastated neighborhood of Elazığ.
Soylu said they had sent more than 10,000 tents to the region with 6,455 tents having been set up in Malatya and Elazığ to shelter survivors and those whose houses were damaged in the earthquake. "We are also delivering food to people," he added. Soylu warned that people should be cautious as aftershocks continued and urged them to spend the night at gyms, schools and other public places opened for survivors.
He said they were also working on comforting the survivors, noting efforts by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB) offering counseling services for survivors and psychological support for children by other ministries. Soylu said the government would also provide direct cash assistance for families affected by the earthquake. He said, so far, TL 20 million had been sent to the region in cash assistance. He said cash for rent would also be delivered for people whose houses were deemed unfit to reside in after the earthquake.
Murat Kurum said 31 buildings collapsed in central Elazığ and Sivrice district near the epicenter while 249 buildings were heavily damaged. In Malatya, 26 buildings collapsed in two districts of Malatya. He said they will reconstruct new buildings in the region as soon as possible, noting that the government already had 400 housing units in central Elazığ where survivors can be accommodated.
Turkey is among the world's most seismically active countries as it is situated on several active fault lines, and dozens of minor earthquakes and aftershocks occur daily.
The earthquake in Elazığ was triggered by the deadly East Anatolian fault line, stretching some 650 kilometers from eastern Turkey's highlands to the Mediterranean, from where it turns southwards and meets the northern end of the Great Rift system separating the African and Arabian plates. The strike-slip fault was formed millions of years ago as the Anatolian plate was pushed northwestwards by the Arabian plate. Experts noted that the line had remained mostly calm after producing a series of devastating earthquakes recorded in the 16th and 19th centuries.
However, major earthquakes with a significant intensity often occur in the region. In 2010, Elazığ province was hit by a 6-magnitude earthquake, killing a total of 51 people in the villages of the Karakoçan district. Some 350 kilometers to the east in 2011, an earthquake struck the eastern city of Van and the town of Erciş, some 100 kilometers to the north, killing at least 523 people.
The fault line is now expected to produce major earthquakes to the southwest.
The most potentially devastating fault line in the country is the North Anatolian fault line (NAF), where the Anatolian and Eurasian plates meet. The NAF has also produced a number of devastating earthquakes throughout history.
More than 17,000 people were killed and over 43,000 were injured when a magnitude 7.4 quake rocked the Marmara region for 37 seconds in the early hours of Aug. 17, 1999, with its epicenter located in Gölcük province, some 75 kilometers southeast of the Bosporus. Three months later, on Nov. 12, 1999, 845 people were killed and nearly 5,000 injured when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Düzce province, about 120 kilometers northeast of Gölcük.
In September, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in the Marmara Sea shook Istanbul and sent panic across the city, injuring 34 and damaging 473 buildings.
Please click to read our informative text prepared pursuant to the Law on the Protection of Personal Data No. 6698 and to get information about the cookies used on our website in accordance with the relevant legislation.
6698 sayılı Kişisel Verilerin Korunması Kanunu uyarınca hazırlanmış aydınlatma metnimizi okumak ve sitemizde ilgili mevzuata uygun olarak kullanılan çerezlerle ilgili bilgi almak için lütfen tıklayınız.