BAYRAKLI, Turkey, Oct 31, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Rescuers raced against
the clock to save people trapped under rubble in Turkey and Greece on
Saturday as anguished mourners buried the first victims of a powerful
earthquake that claimed 37 lives.
The 7.0-magnitude quake killed 35 people and injured nearly 900 in
Turkey after striking on Friday afternoon near the west coast town of
Seferihisar in Izmir province.
Also killing two teenagers on their way home from school in Greece,
it caused a mini-tsunami on the Aegean island of Samos and a sea surge
that turned streets into rushing rivers in one Turkish coastal town.
Turkish authorities registered nearly 600 aftershocks, dozens of
them stronger than 4.0 magnitude, complicating the search for those
believed to still be breathing under mountains of concrete debris.
In Bayrakli, near the Turkish coastal resort city of Izmir that was
heaviest hit, families and friends looked on in agony, exhaustion and
hope as workers painstakingly lifted slabs of flattened apartment
Jubilation, relief and tears of joy greeted every recovered
survivor. Cries of pain accompanied black bags holding bodies removed
from the disaster zone.
“Let me see who it is!” one man shouted.
In small green spaces close to the damaged buildings, tents went up
for frightened families to spend the night.
“It was so cold last night,” said Nilgun Yikariz, 59, who was
sleeping on the grass in a small tent outside her destroyed apartment.
Nearby, Azize Akkoyun recognised parts of her family’s apartment in
the ruins as she waited for news about her missing loved ones.
“Those curtains, they belonged to my daughter’s in-laws,” Akkoyun
told AFP. “God willing they will come out alive.”
– ‘Risk of aftershocks’ –
Hope grew that more survivors could be found following reports in
Turkish media that a mother and her three children were rescued some
23 hours after disaster struck.
A 53-year-old and 62-year-old were also pulled out alive hours
after the quake, media reports said.
The government’s disaster agency AFAD said 100 people have been rescued.
But the wait was agonising and the recovery work excruciatingly
slow, punctuated by long silences in which rescuers — often stretched
out on their knees, with their heads poking into open cracks —
listened for signs of life.
As his family settled inside their white tent, Cemalettin
Enginyurt, 51, described feeling “helpless”.
The retired soldier said his family’s home suffered “serious”
cracks and he feared people being unable to tell if their homes were
fit to return to.
“As it currently is and with the risk of aftershocks, we decided
the solution was to stay outside,” he said.
The latest earthquake will renew fears over when Istanbul might be
hit by a big tremor after the devastating 7.4-magnitude one in 1999 in
Izmit, western Turkey.
Some 17,000 people died then, including 1,000 in Istanbul.
This is the second powerful earthquake to hit Turkey this year,
after one in the eastern city of Elazig killed more than 30 people in
– ‘Lost souls’ –
The tremor was felt as far away as Athens and Istanbul.
On the Greek island of Samos, which is home to 45,000 people and a
large migrants’ camp, the civil protection agency described the
situation as “extremely difficult”.
“Churches, ports and houses will be rebuilt. With the help of God
and men,” said Priest Emmanouil, whose church in the island village of
Pythagorio was damaged. “But lost souls do not return.”
“All of Greece is mourning,” added visiting Greek Prime Minister
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who broke a longstanding chill in relations with
Turkey by calling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to express his
Erdogan was expected to visit Izmir later on Saturday, giving
encouragement to families and to signal that Turkish authorities had
not lost hope.
But a sense of peril hung over the coastal province, with large
cracks and broken plaster lining buildings that looked like they could
fall from another bad shake.
In Bayrakli’s city centre, families wept and prayed at the first
funerals for the victims of the quake.
“I can’t cry anymore. Look I’m not crying,” one woman wailed.
“Mother, when will I see you again?”