Disasters & Accidents

Praying for a miracle in the rubble of quake-hit Osmaniye

By Ilya Topper

Osmaniye, Turkey, Feb 7 (EFE).- Dozens of men and women stand in silence, observing as excavators tear concrete slabs from a towering mound of rubble, all that is left of a residential building of eight apartments in Osmaniye, southeast Turkey.

“Half of the people who lived there are still under the rubble,” an older man by the name of Ferhat, tells Efe without taking his eyes off the dozen or so workers scraping through the wreckage with spades, garden hoes and sometimes their bare hands.

Ferhat’s sister is in the building, or what is left of it.

Asked whether he holds onto hope that she has survived the powerful earthquakes that rocked the region the day before, he responds: “It would be difficult. But maybe.”

Just a few hours prior to the conversation, rescuers managed to pull a woman alive from the mountain of debris.

Musa is watching rescue efforts at another mound of rubble and is running out of hope that four members of his family – his parents, his sister and his brother – will be found alive.

“The teams from AFAD, the national emergency services, only arrived this morning,” he complains. “Yesterday we waited all day but nobody from the organization came.”

He acknowledges that AFAD’s capacity will have been tested by the severity of the situation. Two earthquakes on Monday, one of magnitude-7.7 and another of M7.6, as well as several strong aftershocks, killed thousands of people across southern Turkey and northern Syria.

Two of the buildings, part of a cluster of 14 identical apartment complexes built in the 1980s, have collapsed completely. The residents of the 12 buildings that withstood the temblor made it to safety but cannot return home despite the sub-freezing temperatures.

Özkan, another local resident, tells Efe that no-one has been able to return to their homes. He stares stoically at his car, which was parked outside his building but has been crushed by a solar panel that fell from the roof.

“Don’t walk on the sidewalks or under the overhangs,” he advises, saying the building could still come down at any second.

Almost all of Osmaniye’s 280,000 residents were forced out into the street by the earthquakes and series of aftershocks.

Gas stations are among the few operational businesses in the city, as lines of cars wait for fuel.

Musa says 150 buildings have been destroyed in Osmaniye. The death toll in the province, one of the lesser affected by the quake, is feared to be around 1,000.

A hundred kilometers to the east of Osmaniye, in the cities of Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras, the situation is far worse. There, entire neighborhoods have been laid to waste. EFE


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