Fear of more earthquakes haunts Turkish rescuers trying to save survivors from the wreckage
Gaziantep, an ancient Turkish city badly damaged by the massive 7.8-magnitude quake that killed more than 2,600 people in the country and neighboring Syria, was crippled by widespread destruction – and panic, on Monday, said survivors to NBC News.
As rescue teams pulled the living and dead from the wreckage, government tourism official Resat Taman tried to push back unfounded and rapidly spreading rumors that another earthquake was about to strike. , as the city continued to be rocked by some 130 aftershocks.
“Everyone says the next earthquake is coming and it will be so bad,” Taman said. “And that’s really awful. Because it’s not safe information and everyone is freaking out now because of this stupid information.”
Taman said that fear is escalating to a general sense of dread among those on the still fragile ground of this city of 2 million people, as rescue and recovery operations continue and people have a limited access to housing, goods and services.
“I can say thousands of people (are) under buildings waiting to be rescued,” Taman said. “Now in the cities people can’t find gas, they can’t take money from the banks. They can’t find anything in the shops. Everyone is trying to find warm places to spend the night. “
Taman, 35, is one of them. He and his wife and 5-year-old daughter had to flee their home because it was too dangerous to stay there and took refuge for the night in a government facility. He said some hotels and private businesses are also hosting earthquake refugees.
“It’s not enough because millions of people live in this area,” he said.
Taman said that growing up in Turkey he experienced several small earthquakes “but this one was really different”. He said he was also shaken by the aftershocks, which seem to come about every five minutes.
“We are really scared,” he said. “Pray for Turkey. We really need your support.”
Ibrahim Furkan, a foreign trade expert who lives in Istanbul, was in Gaziantep with his mother to see the sights, including the famous castle that bears the city’s name and which was badly damaged by the quake. He said they were at their hotel when it hit and suddenly everyone was rushing out.
“We were sleeping, then we collapsed on the ground, and when it stopped, we left the building,” he said.
Within minutes, Furkan said, they and everyone else in their hotel had fled the building. And now, he said, they are trapped in a destroyed city with no way to get home because all flights to Istanbul have been cancelled.
Istanbul is more than 800 km northwest of where the quake hit and Sezer cem Tamer, 25, who lives there, said he didn’t even feel it.
But from the moment he hit, Tamer said he was on the phone and on social media desperately trying to find his friends and family who live in and around the small town of Hatay, about 70 miles south. -west of Gaziantep.
“I’m fine, I’m just worried about my friends,” Tamer said.
In particular, Tamer said he was worried about his friend’s father-in-law, Ömer Çokbilgi, who lives in a housing estate where one of the buildings collapsed.
“Block G was demolished at the site where they lived, he lived in Block F, still no contact,” Tamer said. “We are trying to support our friend by tweeting in the hope that someone will see him and join us.”
Tugay Khamran, a 25-year-old university student who lives in Izmir, about 800 km west of Gaziantep, was just one of thousands of young Turks who poured into the worst-hit areas on Monday to help rescues.
Speaking from Kahramanmaraş, about 80 km north of the quake’s epicenter, Khamran said survivors were using social media to post the names and addresses of their missing relatives in the hope that someone would look for them or would find them.
“I get over 100 messages per hour,” Khamran said. “People are trying to find a way to make their voices heard on Twitter.”
Khamran said he was still on his way when a second quake struck a few kilometers north of Kahramanmaraş. When it was over, a city of 1.6 million people lay in ruins, he said.
“All in shock, unfortunately everyone is looking for people they know,” he said. “Imagine a flat city with the whole city in ruins.”
Khamran, who said he was part of a contingent of 500 volunteers searching for survivors, said they did not fear being trapped by rubble.
“There is no more risk because there are no more buildings to demolish,” he said. “We just pray for the citizens under the rubble.”
Mithil Aggarwal reported from London, Corky Siemaszko from New York.
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