Turkey earthquake rescue efforts push ahead despite ethnic tensions
Despite tensions between its Turkish majority and the Kurdish minority that reside in the east, people have come from all four corners of the country to help out with the Turkey earthquake rescue.
Gedik Bulak, Turkey
Meticulous with his woolen tie, cashmere scarf, and waistcoat, Ahmet Misbah Demircan cut an incongruous figure in the eastern Turkey village of Gedik Bulak, which was reduced to rubble by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake Sunday.Skip to next paragraph
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Surrounded by a skeptical crowd of impoverished locals, the mayor of Istanbul's upmarket district of Beyoglu promised that aid was on the way. “I’m going to give each family a tent. Whatever they need we will try to do,” he told them.
The quake three days ago destroyed or damaged beyond repair every single house in this small village of 2,000 people, but it was only today that emergency services arrived. “We have 10 dead and 70 injured,” says village headman Idris Ileri. “So far, we’ve only been given 60 tents. We need far more.”
IN PICTURES: Turkey's 7.2 magnitude earthquake
Still, the scene at Gedik Bulak reflected both the strengths and weaknesses of Turkey’s response to the earthquake, which has so far claimed at least 461 lives and injured more than 1,350 around the eastern cities of Van and Ercis. Though riven by tensions between its Turkish majority and the Kurdish minority that reside here in the east, people have come from all four corners of the country to help out with the crisis.
“I was in Erzurum when I first heard about the earthquake, I just left my family and drove straight here,” says Battal Adiguzel, who works in Turkey’s UMKE disaster response agency and says has not slept since the earthquake.
“There’s no way I can describe the situation when I got here," says Mr. Adiguzel, "We just tried to save people.”
Government officials said emergency services from 45 cities and more than 200 ambulances were deployed across the quake zone.
The Turkish Red Crescent has sent some 7,500 tents, more than 22,000 heaters, and 1,000 body bags to the region.
Some 40 people were pulled out alive from destroyed buildings on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press, including a 2-week-old baby. And Wednesday, a teen and a teacher were rescued as well.
Signs of disorganization
But while few doubt the commitment of the thousands of rescue workers now assisting in the aid effort, there have also been signs of serious disorganization.
"There was a failure in the first 24 hours, but in such situations such shortcomings are normal," Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan said. "There may not be sufficient equipment in depots at the start, but these have (now) been resolved with equipment from other depots."