Turkey lies in one of the world’s most seismic zones, and on Sunday, October 23, 2011, the country’s fate was tested as a powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit its Southeast region early in the afternoon.
The hardest hit area was Ercis, a town with a population of 100,000 people. In the days after the earthquake struck, Ercis experienced a total of 500 aftershocks.
The other numbers recorded will forever remain in the minds of both locals of this small town and people worldwide: Sunday’s death toll numbered 366 lives lost, 1, 301 civilians injured, and many more loved ones missing among the rubble and debris. The bustling district, known for its historical value, also suffered damage to its infrastructure –2, 263 buildings collapsed, with more teetering precariously over the streets as their foundations crumbled.
“Life has become hell. We are outside, the weather is cold. There are no tents”, said Emin Kayram, 53, who found himself displaced after his building collapsed.
However, within the medley of chaos, destruction and grieving, there was still a reason for celebration. On Tuesday, two days after the earthquake occurred, a two week old baby girl’s life was saved.
Azra Karaduman and her mother, Semiha, were trapped under the wreckage of their seven-storey apartment building for two days when a rescue team found the pair, little Azra clutched tightly to her mother’s chest. The street was a sea of orange jumpsuits and camoflauged uniforms as rescue workers and Azerbaigani military rescuers swarmed the area, scouting for survivors. When one rescuer walked out of the destruction site, cradling the infant in his arms, crowds of on-lookers cheered and applauded. Infant Azra was immediately blanketed and rushed to a nearby hospital. Soon after, her mother and grandmother, Serim Yigit, were freed.
Azra’s family members wept with tears of joy as they witnessed the dramatic rescue. “It’s a miracle!” her uncle, Senol Yigit, said.
Even though this tragic disaster has rocked the foundations of Ercis and surrounding areas, Turkey is a strong country with a united front. The prime minister has been rejecting offers of aid from certain countries; to compensate for this, exhausted rescuers and locals are taking matters into their own hands and using excavators, picks and shovels to help in the search for survivors. In another display of compassion, just days after the tragedy, citizens throughout Turkey began sending blankets and warm clothing to the victims.
In the meantime, people across the world are hoping that Turkey will soon recover from this tragedy.