Kahramanmaras earthquake: Hope turns to despair in Turkey over lack of quake help

KAHRAMANMARAS: This was the last time Mesut Hancer held his 15-year-old daughter’s hand.
And despite the icy weather, he refused to let go, stroking her waxy fingers after she died in a terrifying nightmare. earthquake ravaged the south Turkey and neighboring Syria.
Wrapped in a fluorescent orange coat, Hancer knelt beside Irmak’s lifeless body as it lay beneath the rubble on a mattress near the epicenter of the earthquake in Kahramanmaras province.
He was too sad to speak. He just sat and took her protruding hand, the rest of her body still hidden by the giant concrete slabs.
Irmak was one of more than 6,256 people killed in Turkey and Syria after Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake, which injured thousands and left millions unable to return home because their apartments were empty. survive or may collapse due to aftershocks.
For Irmak, it was too late.
But each passing hour brings more horror, anger and frustration growing in Kahramanmaras, where residents are criticizing the state for what they see as a slow response to the biggest disaster of Turkey for decades.
“Where is the state? Where are they? I can’t get my brother from the wreckage. I can’t contact my nephew. Look around here. God, there’s no government official here.” , Ali Sagiroglu shouted exasperatedly.
His father and brother disappeared into the ruins, their fate unknown.
The devastation is too great. Eight apartment buildings over 10 stories tall in an area of ​​the city center collapsed in the first quake that struck before dawn.
Several strong aftershocks followed.
Very few people were able to escape from the eight buildings and it is believed that about 150 people lived in each building.
Sagiroglu is not alone in his rage.
With no mind to wait for help to arrive, some families have used their bare hands to find their loved ones, dead or alive.
AFP teams have seen many areas of Kahramanmaras, in which groups of survivors stand alone, without any government groups providing food, medical aid or other support.
An eerie silence settled downtown on Tuesday afternoon.
“Yesterday, we could hear a lot of people in the rubble screaming for help, but this morning they were silent. They must have died of cold,” said a man in his 40s, declining to say. name.
The lucky survivors huddled around bonfires to stay warm, while others sought shelter from the harsh wind and rain in their cars.
Temperatures drop to -3 degrees Celsius (26 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight.
Cuma Yildiz, an elderly man in his sixties, accused officials of showing no mercy.
“Where are they now, where are they?” he asks. “They have no mercy, they have no compassion,” he growled.
Under pressure ahead of a tough election in May, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday promised to spend 100 billion lira ($5.3 billion) on various earthquake relief measures.
He also pledged that “many” members of the armed forces would soon assist in the search and Rescue efforts.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu took to live television from Kahramanmaras to emphasize that 2,000 search and rescue personnel are working in the province.
Onur Kayai was so desperate for help in neighboring Hatay province, near the Syrian border, that he chased after two disaster agency vehicles to help rescue his mother and brother – but to no avail.
“We need help urgently,” said the 40-year-old NGO worker. “My mother’s voice is louder, but my brother makes no sound,” he said, pacing in front of a damaged building.
Semire Coban, a kindergarten teacher, was equally distressed.
She patiently waited for rescuers to arrive, but was heartbroken that her nephew and two other trapped relatives did not return her calls.
“Teams like to work in ruins where they can hear voices,” she said.


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