Courage in the time of earthquakes

2 mins read

There is no knowing what the final death toll from the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria will be, as many are still trapped under broken concrete.

In the case of Syria, the international rescue effort has been non-existent, with those who had a chance of surviving when the quake happened on Monday, voices have gone silent under the rubble.

Cyprus did offer to send a small rescue team to Turkey through the EU response mechanism, but Nicosia was politely told thanks but no thanks.

Nobody knows the full story, but politics should not factor into tackling an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

The powerful 7.8 magnitude quake was so strong it could be felt 600 km away in Cyprus, where it caused a mini-tsunami in Paralimni.

Cypriots are aware of earthquakes as the island is prone to them, but not on a scale that has inflicted Turkey and Syria.

In a matter of seconds, people’s lives were turned upside down, awoken by the roof falling in and the building toppling over.

Stories of heroism and grief are constant, with children saved from the wreckage while a natural disaster has wiped out entire families.

It also underscores the necessity of efficient and well-organised emergency response teams and building earthquake-proof buildings.

How some buildings folded in Turkey raise suspicions about the construction standards or possible shortcuts made.

At least 19,875 people were killed, and 79,717 others were injured five days after the earthquake that affected 10 provinces in Turkey.

The total death toll in Turkey and Syria (3,377) surpassed 23,000 on Friday, but the final figure is expected to be painfully high.

Cypriots have conveyed their willingness to help survivors with a national appeal to raise funds and collect food and clothing underway.

There have even been calls for a mix of Greek and Turkish Cypriot rescue teams to be formed and sent to Turkey to demonstrate that saving lives comes first.

Such an outcome would be a symbolic gesture of togetherness that is sadly missing on the island.

Volleyball team

Sincere condolences have been conveyed to the Turkish Cypriots, who also mourn the loss of life.

Three bodies were found as rescuers in Turkey searched a collapsed hotel for a group of school volleyball players from the north.

The bodies of two teachers and a student were recovered from the Isias Hotel in Adiyaman.

A group of 39 people – including boys’ and girls’ teams – are said to have been in the building when it came down.

The athletes had travelled to Adiyaman from occupied Famagusta’s Turkish Maarif College, accompanied by teachers and parents.

Four of the party are known to have escaped after the seven-storey building crumbled.

It is estimated that over 5,700 buildings in Turkey have collapsed, and with so much destruction, questions are being asked about building infrastructure.

Especially the type of ‘pancake collapse’ witnessed that makes the search and rescue operation doubly difficult.

As Turkey is in a volatile earthquake zone, building codes are supposed to stop buildings from collapsing completely.

Many of the older buildings had no chance of withstanding the shock.

To compound the seismic destruction that happened when people were sleeping, survivors have braved the bitter cold with no shelter, warm clothes or food.

Across the border in Syria, the tragedy was served to a people fatigued by 12 years of civil war, tired of running from danger.

Desperate Syrians were left alone in the cold and the dark, waiting for help.

Days after the most destructive earthquakes in a century, international aid was a trickle and no search and rescue teams.

How much more hardship can the Syrian people withstand?

They feel their heartache is never ending while their cries for help go unheard.

Getting humanitarian aid across the border to a war zone is hampering the UN effort in Syria.

Volunteer Cypriot doctors will also be travelling to Aleppo to do their bit.

Hopefully, the rescue team not welcomed by Turkey could find its way to do some good in Syria if the politics can be smoothed over.

Natural disasters come without warning, ripping apart our daily reality.

Only cooperation, courage and humility will get us through it.