No words can ever appropriately reflect on the human catastrophe unfolding in south-eastern Türkiye – the twin quakes that shook the earth on 6 February 2023 with the first one with a magnitude of 7.8 followed by another quake with a magnitude of 7.7 nine hours later. Let us not forget that northern Syria was badly affected too – as pen was put to paper for this article the death toll stood at 43556 citizens in Türkiye and over 6600 in Syria, respectively.
Journalists are trained to find appropriate commentary for all types of situations – but there are exceptions. Hence, and what is basically left to say is to let us continue by expressing our heartfelt condolences to all the victim’s families, to the entire nation and that those injured may speedily and fully recover. However, even the ‘standard’ wording of heartfelt condolences can not even by one per cent mirror the tragic loss of live, the human suffering, the grief, the ‘no more future’. But we shall return to that notion of ‘what future’ in a minute.
And the sheer unimaginable suffering continues with by now counting over 7000 aftershocks and even new tremors in Hatay province with the most recent one last Thursday 23 February 2023 with a magnitude of 5.0 after Tuesday witnessed a 6.4 magnitude tremor.
Let us recall that about 13.5 million citizens inhabit the affected eleven provinces accounting for over 15 per cent of the entire population of the Republic of Türkiye.
Whilst Reuters quoted Türkiye’s Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu as saying that the total number of buildings both private and commercial that have been affected stands at over 750000 (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/earthquake-death-toll-turkey-rises-43556-minister-says-2023-02-23/), Daily Sabah reported 139000 buildings of those are so severely damaged that they must be demolished or are already completely destroyed (https://www-dailysabah.com/turkiye/another-magnitude-50-earthquake-shakes-turkiyes-hatay/news).
In moments of such sheer destruction one glimmer of hope is to experience the whole world expressing first of all their deep respect but at the same time dispatching much needed aid to Türkiye, and fast. As the Foreign Ministry announced a total of 102 nations including 88 countries having sent rescue teams did whatever possible to help (correct as on 20 February 2023). Glued to our television or smartphone screens we followed events every hour, every day – women, men, children were found alive under the collapsed houses as if by a miracle. This in turn inspired more and more people including thousands of citizens of Türkiye to travel to the eleven provinces offering their physical or other help with many donating funds via the registered and official charities or government organisations. And this holds true for our southern Aegean shores – many of our neighbours, many amongst our expatriate community shipped in whatever they can financially or donated much needed clothing, bedding, blankets or anything required on ground zero. Then there are the truck loads of food items or baby formula. It is heart-warming during a period in ones’ life when every little helps, or so one thinks.
Rebuilding under way without delay
We mentioned earlier on in this article ‘what future’? With all due modesty and now that the rescue operations have come to their final stages no time should be wasted in order to rebuild the affected regions and most of all this necessitates providing for new housing and new accommodation. The government already announced that initially 200000 such new fixed abodes shall be constructed without delay, with many more to follow. The supply of gas and electricity must go hand in hand. The authorities’ response was swift during the first hours of the catastrophe and will continue to be just that in the long-term. For today and this short contribution nothing more is there to say – my greatest wish is: let us not return to ‘business as usual’, let us do whatever we can to support those in need.