Exemplary and emotional solidarity of Turkish people after catastrophic earthquakes in Türkiye
Updated 19:52, 13-Feb-2023
Duygu Cagla Bayram
Exemplary and emotional solidarity of Turkish people after catastrophic earthquakes in Türkiye

Editor's note: This is a letter from  Duygu Cagla Bayram, an Ankara-based India specialist, sharing his thoughts about the earthquakes in Türkiye.

The sun did not rise for Türkiye on February 6, Monday. The good people of Türkiye woke up to a very dark winter morning, having to overcome a massive natural disaster. What the country has experienced on Monday was the biggest natural disaster in the last century after the 1939 earthquake.

Just with and interval of nine hours, two massive independent earthquakes followed by hundreds of aftershocks (three of them larger than magnitude 6) with the epicenter of Kahramanmaras Province rattled southern Türkiye. The Frist magnitude-7.8 quake struck at 04:17 am while people were asleep. The second one, second magnitude-7.8 quake, occurred at 13:24 pm, which was nearby. It's so rare in world geology history that the two earthquakes occurred in such close proximity and time.

Türkiye declared seven days of mourning, as well as a state of emergency for three months in 10 provinces.

The two big independent earthquakes that swept through Türkiye's 10 southern provinces were also felt in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot Administration and Israel. As Turkish risk experts said the quake was highly anticipated but this much destruction was never predicted. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Türkiye is "facing one of biggest disasters not only in its history but also in world."

Türkiye sits atop the Anatolian tectonic plate, which is placed right in the middle of the Eurasian and African plates; lies on two major fault lines: The North Anatolian Fault covers all the way from west to east of the country and the East Anatolian Fault rests in the country's southeastern region.

The 7.8 magnitude 1939 quake, which hit the southeastern part of Türkiye, Erzincan province, killed nearly 33,000 people, wounding over 100,000. The 7.6 magnitude 1999 Golcuk earthquake. which struck the northwestern part of the country, killed about 17,000 people. Although it's creepy to predict the damage of this disaster, the estimates indicate that things could be worse than the Golcuk quake that had 20,000 death toll.

Agence France-Presse reported that 29,605 people had died in Türkiye on February 12. Meanwhile, aftershocks keep jolting the southern part of the country. And the very cold, rainy and snowy weather conditions, as well as the fast ticking of the clock, complicate the search and rescue operations.

Yes, Türkiye has long history of earthquakes, while natural disasters always bring pain and misery, which leave permanently bitter marks on generations. It will never be forgotten that an 8-years-old girl's silent and desperate cry by telling a rescue personnel right after getting pulled from the rubble that "my mother could not get out of the rubble, she was holding my hand but then she let go of my hand and just become quite," for her mother who was still trapped under the rubble.

But despite all, the exemplary unity, togetherness and solidarity of the Turkish people are once again being witnessed, which raise hopes. And the Turkish government is mobilizing its resources, and working shoulder to shoulder with the Turkish military and countrywide volunteer groups, alongside many countries' search and rescue missions who have shown solidarity with Türkiye.

Türkiye has a rich and proud history as they had often stood at the forefront of helping other countries amid challenging times. And now we feel grateful for the power of solidarity. Of course, we will heal our wounds, but the tragedy will be engraved in our memories and hearts.

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