On October 23rd at around 1:40 pm a 7.2, on the Richter scale, earthquake hit the region of Van in Eastern Turkey. The hardest hit city was that of Ercis. The Eastern region of Turkey is the poorest and least developed are of Turkey, as well as one of the most seismically active regions.
The situation began tragically and has become more grim. Currently the death toll is 534 and hundreds are still missing, buried among the debris. 2,300 people are injured. Over 10 thousand people are homeless, their homes collapsed or structurally unsound, they are suffering from the cold and intermittent rain and snow.
There were people being pulled from the rubble through Tuesday and Wednesday, including the amazing rescue of a premature infant, mother and grandmother. However, after five days, the focus is switching from search and rescue to relief efforts. There are fundraising efforts though public and private foundations all over the country. My friend has been collecting and organizing ways to help through physical and monetary donations. Please visit her blog to see how to help. Also, Western Union is not charging a transfer fee when you donate to the Van earthquake relief.
This week, I had many calls and emails from friends, asking if I was alright. We were safe, far from the earthquake, but also far from danger. Ankara still has earthquakes, but we live in an earthquake resistant building, in a neighborhood full of them. One of the reasons the people of the Van area suffered so much property damage and loss of life is that it is an impoverished area, with self built homes made of sun dried bricks.
All week I have been watching the news coverage, the tears falling down the lined faces of the tazes, the children standing in front of piles of rubble waiting for their parents to be uncovered. The men and women poking through the debris looking for their family members. I have always loved Turkey, and the Turkish people, the warmth and strength of them. This week has added another aspect to the relationship. When you grieve for something, or with someone, it or they becomes more a part of you. Right now I am grieving with my second country, for our people.