On the 6th of February 2023 at 4:27am (local time) the first of two seismic earthquakes struck and devastated areas of southern and central Türkiye as well as northern and western parts of Syria. This initial quake was pronounced to have been 7.8 in magnitude and the second tremor that followed nine hours later (13:24 local time) came in at 7.6. The magnitude of these earthquakes is categorised as ‘major’ on the Richter scale. Well, as I write this it is now 9 days since the Türkiye-Syria earthquake. The death toll is currently at least 41,000, those injured are 89,926 and those affected are 26 million.
I know for a fact that the earthquakes have catapulted waves of shock and disbelief around the globe as well as in Türkiye and Syria themselves, as the world looks to these two countries and its people. Like many other millions of people, I have watched from the comfortable of my sofa and home the indescribable scenes of rubble, devastation and dust, watched on the screen the lives, families, communities and livelihoods of those affected smashed to smithereens. We have all seen the fear and exhaustion in the eyes and countenance of survivors and rescuers alike, it is palpable through the news reports. Yet, despite the prodigious damage the earthquakes have caused, the one enduring, unbreakable, unbeatable, magnificent survivor of such a disaster is the human spirit and the love for one another. Beaten down but never broken.
Humanitarian crises call to question our own existentialism, the injustice and brutality of this world, our own mortality and our appreciation to be alive and safe. But, simultaneously in times of such sadness and hopelessness, disastrous events like these bring in to sharp focus the strength, bravery, generosity and spirt of humans. In times like these, the barriers which separate us and differentiate us melt so that our humanness is laid bare.
The media reports have not failed to capture and forefront the miraculous efforts of those working on the frontline rescue teams, many individuals are members of the communities affected by the earthquakes searching for their own family members, friends and neighbours. Just imagine that was you for a second. Looking for people you love; incomprehensible. I ask myself what keeps these people going? How do they carry on the search despite discovering the worst? I think what keeps these individuals going is the basic and innate emotion we have and that is empathy and the desire to help and be selfless when those we know, our community and strangers need our aid. Alongside all of the heartache there is a tiny glimpse of some form of hope that has been uncovered, the virtue of humans, a quality we sometimes lose sight of in this world.
A plethora of amazing and emotional rescue stories and videos have emerged that encapsulates the feeling of community and the resilience of its people above and below the rubble to have survived and found and of those uncovering and recovering lives. It is truly remarkable.
From the very initial minutes after the earthquakes struck the search for survivors began, now there are more than 32,000 Turks and 8,000 international workers who are frantically trying to search the debris and rubble for the signs of survivors. It is now 9 days since the disaster and still miraculous stories of rescue continue happen.
Just yesterday rescue workers in Türkiye unbelievably managed to pull a teenager from the wreckage after they spent more than 198 hours under the rubble. Baby Hamza was recovered by teams after spending 150 hours trapped beneath concrete and dust. As well, miracle stories of cats and dogs trapped in the rubble have surfaced, with rescue teams saving dogs trapped under the wreckage 6 days after the earthquake struck. When the earthquake struck, the Fansa family became trapped under the rubble of their home (seven-story apartment building in Kahramanmaras). After 14 hours mum (Nilay), dad (Cengiz) and four-year-old daughter Nil were retrieved. However, their two younger daughters were not buried under the wreckage with them. Unfortunately, four days after the quake the body of two-year-old Alin was found. The Fansa family assumed the worst for their 8-month-old missing baby. Miraculously though, baby Brice had been saved by a neighbour and had in fact been rescued before the other three surviving family members. The Fansa family has since been reunited. But, despite their escape and survival the family must now grieve over the loss of their young daughter. This small handful of survival stories moves people across the globe, showing one another the virtue and resilience of individuals in this world. Countless videos have spread across media platforms showing the miracle that is life and the good will of mankind. Yet, with these miracles scenarios there is a painful realisation that these stories are few and far between, and those families, friends and loved ones who will never be reunited are in their tens of thousands.
Nine days have passed since the earthquakes struck, since then rescuers have worked tirelessly and tenaciously providing unwavering hope for families and people around the world who still have missing family and friends. I can only marvel at their work, their courage and bravery to carry on and to find the light when the light is hidden. The situation in Syria is rather frightening since the country has been in on-going conflict for the past 12 years. Inhabitants in north-western Syria were already struggling and feeling the hardships that conflict generates. The earthquakes have worsened these regions situations enormously making: ‘a desperate situation even worst’. Those of us who are watching from beyond Türkiye and Syria feel compelled and helpless, inspired by the acts of courage and defiance from both survivors and rescuers. We want to help. We must help.
Both in Syria and Türkiye after being pulled or narrowly escaping from the debris, safety is far from in sight, the dangers of the disaster have not disappeared for the survivors. Aid is desperately needed in the areas affected for those survivors. As the figures of those immediately affected accelerates upwards there is a huge struggle for basic necessities such as shelter, food and clean facilities to be supplied sufficiently to victims of the earthquake disaster. There is countless reporting which document families having to find their own shelter, lodging themselves and their small children in lorry cabs. Supplies are desperately needed to keep those survivors, among them many young children, warm in the bitterly and brutal cold evenings.
The UN has warned that at least 870,000 people urgently need hot meals across Syria and Türkiye and that the death toll we are seeing is likely to be double. As people are lucky to be not directly affected by the earthquake we have to where we can, give what we can and do all that we can. In order to support and help broken families, people and animals to feel some sort of safety and comfort whilst they grieve over this immense devastation.
As the rescue recovery begins to decelerate questions concerning those responsible will naturally surge to the surface of this disaster. Questions of interrogation and questions surrounding the innocence of mankind (the government, building contractors etc.) in this catastrophic loss of life in Türkiye and Syria. While an undeniable outpour of love and kindness has been displayed amongst the darkness and rubble. Anger and the the need for accountability will also rise from the rubble for the millions of those affected by the disaster from Türkiye, Syria and beyond.
But for now, say a pray and hold those individuals, families and communities in our minds and pray for their wellbeing and the strength to keep going. For those Syrian and Turkish communities all around the world, including Nottingham.
We have to keep the lantern of hope and love alive when those who need it most cannot.
- Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) here https://donate.redcross.org.uk/appeal/turkey-syria-earthquake-appeal
What’s Happening in Nottingham?
- UoN Turkish Society have been putting on several bake sales (9am-6pm) and supplies to donate to those affected by the earthquake in Türkiye. Keep an eye out for their fundraising events. Visit their page: https://instagram.com/uonturkishsociety?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=