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Miraculous rescue operations in Izmir give Turks hope in the aftermath of the earthquake


November 4, 2020

Izmir, Turkey – On the morning of 3 November, a group of rescuers pulled 3-year-old Aida Gizkin out of the rubble. The girl was buried for 91 hours in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, on October 30.

Aida was found trapped behind a kitchen appliance in her family’s collapsed eight-story building. Her father was rescued from the rubble the day before, but her mother, Fidan, who was in the apartment with her, was killed in the earthquake, according to Kerem Knik, head of the Turkish Red Crescent in Kizilay.

Cem Erdogan, the rescuer who found Aida, told Al-Monitor, “I have a 6-year-old son.” He had come to Izmir from the southeastern town of Tunceli to assist local rescue teams. “When I heard her voice and saw those olive eyes, I felt as if I had saved my son. She has fun to live, that person!”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted, in a rare emotional tweet: “Aida is a miracle.” “Alhamdulillah he gave us new hope through your smiling eyes.” The president, along with his senior officers, visited the city, which is an opposition stronghold, on November 1.

The dramatic rescue of Aida follows the rescue of Elif Prenske, a 3-year-old girl who is rescued 24 hours earlier. The photo of Led Elif, wrapped around the hand of her savior, Muammar Celik, was widely seen on the front pages of newspapers and in social media photos using the hashtag #thereisstillhope. Elif, who has bruises around her face and is covered in tufts of blonde hair, is currently in an Izmir hospital. Her mother, Soheir Berinsk, was pulled out of the rubble alive on October 31 along with two sisters, Elif, who are twins. But their 7-year-old brother Umut, whose name in Turkish means Hope, passed away.

“Elif grabbed my hand when I reached out,” a firefighter from Istanbul told the BBC. Selleck initially thought the little girl was dead, but when he reached out to her face, she grabbed his finger. He said, “It was a great gift for all of us.”

Turkish Health Minister Fakhruddin Kuja, known for his gloomy and warning tone, tweeted, “Life has triumphed again,” adding that saving “Elif” gave hope and courage to our struggle to save lives. Thanks to the distinguished teams. ”

A park in Partin, a city in northern Turkey, was named Elif, and a Turkish businessman said he would cover all her education expenses in the future.

“The news of the two children gave us all hope, including those whose loved ones did not survive,” said Cefal Irulu, whose son-in-law Fatih Agar died, under the rubble.

“The work done by rescue teams and the cooperation between volunteers and local authorities have all gone smoothly.” Iter Earhart, a member of the NGO Disaster Coordination Platform, told Al-Monitor, “In the event of an earthquake, the first 72 hours are crucial in assessing the impact and setting up Map of needs. ”The platform, established earlier this year, aims to bring together NGOs – from medical aid organizations to food banks – to mobilize assistance in the event of a natural disaster.“ We were able to collaborate efficiently and quickly with Local authorities”.

More than 1,770 rescuers and thousands of volunteers from Izmir and all over Turkey rushed to help – either by setting up tents or providing food and clothing. “We have received aid from 81 cities in Turkey in addition to 340 cities from all over the world,” Izmir Mayor Tunc Sawyer said in his daily online press conference on November 3. He also said that many people who have second homes in the Izmir region have offered to open their vacant houses to earthquake victims.

Despite the positive stories, hope continued to fade even as hundreds of rescuers from all over Turkey dig into the rubble. The number of casualties has reached 109, said Sawyer, the city mayor from the Social Democratic Party. Most of the deaths occurred in Berkeley, a central area called “Manhattan, Izmir” because of the lavish high-rise buildings and luxury shopping malls. The area’s urban landscape is a mixture of seven- and eight-story buildings from the 1990s – for example, the apartment buildings in Rizabi and Doganlar both collapsed – and the most recent “residential towers” built by construction groups near the central government, as the liberal coastal city became popular with the wealthy. In Istanbul, white-collar workers and businessmen.

Some of the new buildings, including the recently renovated Hall of Justice, had cracks in their walls and were evacuated. Soyer said in an online news conference that about eight buildings had completely collapsed and 14 buildings needed to be demolished due to the damage they sustained in the earthquake.

Some engineers and residents say the dangers posed by many of the buildings in Berkeley have long been known. A 2012 earthquake risk assessment by the Berkeley City Hall of the Risabi apartment building – where Aida was found – revealed that the building was considered to be in extreme danger in the event of an earthquake.

“Most of the apartment owners were living elsewhere, after they had rented out their apartments. We tenants were somehow unable to organize and things stayed the same,” Alekan Akgunduz, who was the complex manager, told Hurriyet. The two sons of Akgunduz, 16-year-old twins Selda and Senar Akgunduz, died in the earthquake.

Although Turkey is known for the 1999 Istanbul earthquake near Istanbul (with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale and killing 17,118) and the 2011 Van earthquake in the east (with a magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale with a death toll of 640), the Aegean coast is a major seismic zone. Izmir was hit by many similar earthquakes, particularly in the 1930s and 1970s.

Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdarolu told his party’s parliamentary group on 3 November: “We cry for the earthquake victims and are hopeful about miracles, but the fact remains that the government has done little to prevent earthquakes.” Some civic groups, including the Chamber of Architects and Engineers, argue that the 2018 Zoning Amnesty under which unregistered buildings and additions to existing buildings can be legalized for a fee may create a safety hazard in Turkey.

On Turkey’s vibrant Twitter site, the earthquake tragedy set fire to the conservatives and fierce liberal Izmir. Deputy Interior Minister Mukhtram Ince said that several Twitter users who said that Izmir, a city of unbelievers and fornicators, were “punished” by the earthquake, were arrested on October 31.


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