Letter: Quake blunders

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The Independent Culture
Sir: To have survived the Istanbul earthquake is a blessing. The subsequent deaths of thousands attributable to ignorance and blunder however makes this natural disaster also a man-made catastrophe. Efforts to put things right are further hampered by a government which declares constructive criticism to be unpatriotic and demoralising.

In a country that has been mobilised for its civil war for over 15 years, little help reached the disaster areas for well over two days because, to quote from the Prime Minister, "roads were destroyed, telephones were down". Helicopters? Simple field phones? Did no one think to use the sea to reach the disaster areas, coastal towns about an hour from Istanbul? And while organised help was not available perhaps thousands buried alive were killed by the dozers cleaning up the rubble.

In view of the country's many previous earthquakes, to have built the nation's largest oil refinery and its major industries smack on top of the fault zone is an obvious example that nothing has been learnt from the experience.

With international law having more and more jurisdiction over human rights and commercial activities of nation states, it is high time for the UN to be empowered to declare international disaster areas and step in to lead the rescue efforts. Blundering efforts of unprepared nation states should not be the curse of world citizens.

GUNDUZ Y H VASSAF

Istanbul

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