Analysis Perspective

In Turkey’s grief, it should strengthen building codes

Buildings in Izmir, Turkey, are close together, like these in Istanbul. (Bilge Nur Güven/YJI)

ISTANBUL – An air of sorrow and grief consumed Turkey just days after a terrible earthquake struck the city of Izmir, killing more than 100 people.

We feel the loss of each life deep in our souls.

Turkey is in an earthquake zone. The 1999 Gölcük earthquake had a reported number of 17,480 deaths and consequences which lasted years.

In the city of Van, 604 died in a 2011 quake and 32,962 perished in Erzincan in 1939. Now an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, devastated Izmir.

U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Program map showing the location of the Oct. 30 earthquake just off the Turkish coast.

It is the fourth day since the earthquake struck Izmir, and search and rescue teams are still working tirelessly.

There 111 are dead and more than 1,000 injured.

Turkish people are well acquainted with the grief of disaster.

We are people who feel this grief more and more every single day. We are fed up with the lies and neglect of the authorities despite the experience of deep suffering.

There are buildings in Izmir next to each other with one completely collapsed while the other is standing tall.

The collapsed building was old and damaged, or it was made from cheap material, or it was not built on proper soil.

This recklessness is what costs lives.

There are reports of buildings which are red-flagged for earthquakes that needed to be torn down 20 years ago.

The authorities took none of the proper actions.

Building contractors continue to cut their costs by using cheaper materials, choosing not to make buildings earthquake resistant.

In pushing past safety limits, they put lives in danger.

A huge earthquake is expected to strike Istanbul, Turkey’s most crowded and urbanized city. There is no telling when it will come.

Istanbul’s city planning is even more atrocious than Izmir’s.

Experts say that we are doomed. It’s by chance that we are alive today.

Our lives should be worth more than construction profits.

Though there is anguish, hope still remains. A small sound from under tons of concrete could mean life.

Three-year-old Elif became the symbol of hope after she was found under tons of rubble, breathing.

The firefighter who rescued Elif after she was trapped under a building for 65 hours, spoke about the extraordinary moment.

Elif holding the hand of firefighter Muammer Çelik who found her. (Photo from the Municipality of Istanbul.)

“There was no movement, so I asked for a blanket from the team. Her face was covered in concrete residue, I wanted to clean it. Elif grabbed my finger as I was reaching over. I froze. Everyone froze. We started crying. Elif never once let go of my finger, until she was in the hospital,” firefighter Muammer Çelik said in an interview with the Anadolu News Agency.

In the interview, conducted in Turkish and translated here, he added, “We’re not the heroes here, Elif is.”

Unfortunately, Elif’s seven-year-old brother, Umut, died under the weight of the building. Their mother, formerly a mother of four, is now a mother of three.

Should she celebrate her daughter’s miraculous escape from death or grieve the loss of her son?

Another miracle child was Ayda, aged four, who was rescued alive after 91 hours under the rubble of her home. Her mother’s cold body was also found under the same rubble.

We say that it’s a miracle Ayda made it out alive, but how will she feel about it when she wakes up to a world without her mother?

As we rejoice in the miracles and grieve the losses, we repeat, “Earthquakes don’t kill people, buildings do.”

Bilge Nur Güven is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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