Monitor: When the earth shook

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The Independent Culture


THOUGH THREE days have passed since this fearsome earthquake, the government has been unable to reach the disaster areas, and the Turkish people have started their own civilian emergency campaign. The private sector organisations have been the ones who responded to the cries for help and they are now fully implementing all their resources. The people who saw the government's helplessness, from judges to small businessmen, workers and students, have tried to do something. Even those who have nothing took up picks and spades and ran to the rescue.


IT IS indeed a great misfortune. But we believe, with the spirit of solidarity created by this disaster, we will shorten the time to reach our target, of moving away from being a third world country in the eyes of Europe. The government could not use the state machinery. The resources of the army have not been utilised properly. Every minute foreign relief teams are delayed a life expires and yet they are kept waiting at the airport for hours, their rescue equipment stuck at customs. The duty of a statesman is not to run around the collapsed buildings sharing grief, but to take charge of the crisis team at Ankara, manage the crisis and relieve the pain.

(Gungor Mengi)San Francisco



AS TV news was broadcasting reports on the devastating earthquake in Turkey, the ground under viewers feet began to lurch as a 5.0 tremblor hit the Bay Area. These events ought to have reminded us of the usual things: Of the need to be prepared for the Big One that scientists say is sure to strike here sooner or later. Of the need to shore up poorly constructed buildings, bridges, freeways and other structures that could collapse and kill in a major quake. Of the uncertainty of existence, and the possibility of losing one's life in the momentary shudder of the Earth's crust. Of the feebleness of humankind up against natural disasters. Ought to remind us, that is. But these events, and thoughts, often flash across the mind only to be quickly forgotten. Many people here, motivated by humanitarianism, a sense of kinship or an appreciation of shared geophysical underfooting, contributed to relief efforts in Turkey. This city has always responded generously to disasters around the world, but it naturally has a special affinity for the victims of earthquakes. Small local shakes, killer quakes abroad and anniversaries of the '06 disaster all should serve as proverbial wake-up calls. No such luck. Except when they occur in eerie conjunction, they seldom get our attention. One day, however, the real thing will rattle our complacency to pieces.




THE EARTHQUAKE on Tuesday did not harm the world's biggest cupola, nor did it damage the four minarets, built by the Ottoman conquerors in the 15th century. Other historical sites of Istanbul, including dozens from the 16th and 17th centuries survived unscathed. Obviously modern Turkish architects do not deliver the quality their ancestors managed, at least not in the poor quarters. That, as well as the long absence of aid in many regions, has cost thousands of lives. How can it be explained that Turkey, which is so susceptible to earthquakes, faces a catastrophe like this with such helplessness? The constant internal political crises of the past few years and the chronic administrative chaos, corruption and lethargy in the state apparatus only partly explain that. Washington Post


THE NEWS and the dreadful images from this quake's aftermath - rows of six-storey buildings collapsed on their foundations, hundreds of streets blocked, families scraping helplessly at the rubble covering their relatives, fires raging out of control from a damaged oil refinery - show just how much worse things can get when man-made circumstance and geographic chance magnify natural catastrophe. Numerous nations have indicated their willingness to send teams and aid - including traditionally hostile neighbors such as Greece and even Cyprus. President Clinton made clear the United States would be part of the effort. Along with the altruism that comes to the surface at such times, helpers are surely aware of the importance of helping Turkey, a key ally with always volatile politics, keep its balance under this sudden and devastating blow to the very heart of its life and economy.


World reaction to the humanitarian, civil and economic destruction wreaked on Turkey by the calamity that struck early on Tuesday