Yet again, Turkey digs frantically for survivors

IT CAME in the early evening, the same ominous shaking that Turks have felt countless times since the August quake.

An earthquake makes a scraping noise, like something massive moving a long way. As it grew stronger and people rushed to shelter under a lintel, as advised, or even rushed into the streets in panic, there was the usual sickening fear: what if it's another big one?

The shaking subsided in Istanbul, which next week plays host to the United States President, Bill Clinton, and other leaders attending the Organisation for Security and Co- operation in Europe summit.

Then the reports from other parts of northwest Turkey started to come in.

Turkey has seen enough flattened buildings, heard too many times the deep wail of grief people make when their life has been shattered in a few moments. Last night they watched and listened again as the sickening television pictures came. Yalova, Izmit, names that meant nothing to the outside world until August. Now we may have to add Bolu and Duzce to the list.

The full extent of the damage from yesterday's quake is not known yet, and it is still possible to hope. The hilly region of Bolu, where the quake was centred, is not as heavily populated as the Maramara region where August's quake hit, and this time the quake was not quite as strong, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale compared with a devastating 7.4 on August 17.

As of last night a total 34 people were reported dead, and 1,000 injured. But everybody here remembers how the death toll started low in August, and rose relentlessly, until it reached 17,000.

"We fear that many people are trapped under rubble," the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, said last night, voicing the fear in everyone's minds.

In the first television pictures, people could already be seen digging with anything that came to hand: shovels, pick-axes, their bare hands. Others just watched in helpless silence.

"God protect us," said Mr Ecevit. Already, 500 are reported injured in the town of Duzce where people were being treated in the hospital gardens because of damage to the building. A doctor there issued a desperate plea for painkillers and medicine, saying the hospital's stocks were almost exhausted. "I am calling SOS for Duzce," he said.

"There is utter helplessness here at the moment," said one eyewitness in Duzce. "Hundreds of buildings have collapsed but there is no one here who can help." Mr Ecevit said emergency crews could not reach Duzce, because of severe damage to the roads.

There were similar cries for help from Bolu. "We need rescue crews and ambulances," said the provincial governor. The police chief said that the road to Istanbul was destroyed, and begged for help from Ankara live on television by telephone.

This quake will bring its own problems, too. The last big quake came in the summer, when the homeless could sleep in the streets. Those who lost their homes last night may have to spend the bitter November nights in the open. Already, they could be seen crowding round fires on television last night, wrapped up heavily. To make matters worse, Bolu's hills bring it cold winters.

The same anger that ripped through Turkish society in August is bound to surface again: anger at the greedy constructors who throw up sub-standard housing, and the authorities who do not stop them. It was telling that the Housing Minister was dispatched to the disaster site alongside emergency teams.

It was telling, too, that Mr Ecevit emphasised that the military was sending help. The Turkish armed forces were heavily criticised in August, as soldiers stood by while the people dug in despair.

The disaster came even as Turkey is preparing for its hour of pride at the OSCE summit on November 18 and 19, proof of Turkey's place as a Western ally. Officials last night insisted the summit and a visit to the country by the US President would go ahead. President Clinton leaves for Turkey tomorrow.

There were also concerns about possible repercussions on today's football qualification match for Euro 2000 in Dublin between Turkey and Ireland.

Chillingly, Turkey's leading seismologist, Ahmet Mete Isikara, said that this was not an aftershock from August's quake. That leaves Turkey wondering how many more quakes it will face, how many more it will lose to these convulsions of the earth.

And when will the Big One hit Istanbul, a desperately crowded metropolis of 12 million citizens, full of substandard buildings?


Nov 12: A quake destroys hundreds of buildings in the town of Duzce and causes deaths.

Nov 11: One man dies and 88 are injured as they leap from buildings when a tremor hits Istanbul.

Nov 7: Two tremors are centred on Hendek.

Oct 5: More than 100 are injured by a quake centred near Marmaris.

Sep 29: A quake strikes the town of Yalova.

Sep 13: An aftershock has its epicentre in the western Turkish city of Izmit, 55 miles southeast of Istanbul.

Aug 17: A violent earthquake measuring 7.4 strikes Izmit, killing at least 17,118 people.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk