Earthquake kills 112 in Turkey

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The Independent Online
A BUS lay caved in under a slab of concrete, which used to be the roof of a nearby building. A digger slowly manoeuvred the slab off the bus. "We don't know if anyone was inside when the bus was hit," said a policeman holding back the crowd of onlookers.

This was the scene in the main square of Ceyhan yesterday afternoon.

Ceyhan is a small town, about 50km east of Adana, the largest city in southern Turkey. It was Ceyhan that took the worst of the earthquake which hit the area at 4.55pm on Saturday afternoon.

As many as 112 people were reported dead, of whom 44 were in Ceyhan. According to local officials, another 1,000 were injured, of whom 266 were in hospital. The Turkish President, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister all rushed to Adana to inspect the damage.

Ceyhan was still in shock yesterday. Rubble lay everywhere, while shattered buildings spilled on to the street. Most of the people stood and watched the rescue operation in complete silence.

One boy was rescued alive from the rubble yesterday. Earlier, firemen pulled out the bodies of three children killed while they were at a birthday party. One fireman said he thought there might be about 25 people left alive still trapped under the collapsed masonry.

In a grocery store, a group of young men sat and stared at the ground. "I was working here with my friends," one of them told me. "Then there was a huge bang. Buildings seven storeys high fell to the ground."

"The ground shook, buildings were rocking from side to side for, maybe 20 seconds. Masonry was falling all around," said Ismey Apak, an old man dressed in traditional Turkish costume.

Sertan Ciger, a 20-year-old student, came to Ceyhan from Adana yesterday. "I came to find out about my aunt and uncle - I think they may be dead," he said.

Dr Omal Onal, who is co- ordinating medical aid for the provincial governor, said he expected the number of deaths to rise as more bodies were found. More than 80 rescue workers were yesterday still searching the area.

In Adana, a shattered minaret jutted into the sky. The damage here was less extreme than in Ceyhan, though buildings were destroyed and the city's old quarter was damaged. Here, it was business as usual, and the taxi drivers vied with each other to give journalists guided tours of the damage.

Adana is not used to being the centre of attention. Although it is Turkey's fourth-largest city, with more than one million people, it is well off the tourist trail in spite of its proximity to the Mediterranean.

Elsewhere, there were slight tremors in the resorts along the Mediterranean coast, but hotel managers said tourists were not unduly alarmed.

In the office of the provincial governor at Adana there was chaos. Ardahan Totuk, the deputy governor, was trying to co-ordinate plans to distribute food to those made homeless by the quake. Meanwhile, the Turkish President and his Prime Minister were driving up the rock-strewn road to Ceyhan to see the damage.

The presence of such high-profile visitors did not convince everyone of the government's good intentions. Some were furious that the excavation was halted so that President Suleyman Demirel could inspect what was going on.

"The state looks after the rich - they've been sent to hospital. They have done nothing for the poor," said one woman whose home was in a building that was reduced to a pile of rubble. "That building housed 36 people and took 30 seconds to collapse. There was a 15-year-old killed in there. Now we've got nothing, we're in the hands of God."

But other voices blame the poor themselves for at least some of their plight. "They come in from the villages and build without permission on government land. They want to build quickly so they don't build proper foundations," said Gurbuz Aynaz, a hotel worker in Adana.

At Istanbul's Bagazici University, scientists said that the quake, recorded with a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale, was the first to exceed a magnitude of six since the Second World War.

Adana does not lie on any known fault lines, and the latest disaster will fuel a growing sense of anxiety in Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, with a population of more than10 million. Statistics indicate that a big earthquake is likely in the desperately overcrowded city within the next decade.

In Adana and Ceyhan, locals were preparing for a difficult future. "We are clearing up' said a young man in a grocery, "but the job will never be finished."