Several regions in the southeast of Turkey hit by two major earthquakes less than 12 hours apart on Monday have yet to receive any aid, in particular the predominantly Alevi-populated* southern province of Hatay, where people are still waiting for aid and rescue teams to arrive for thousands of people under the rubble.
Some 1500 buildings may have been destroyed in Hatay and 90 percent of the buildings in the city’s most populated central district Antakya became unusable, according to Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Hatay MP Mehmet Güzelmansur. The most urgent need is for search and rescue efforts, the MP stated.
The fact that hospitals were among the destroyed buildings in Hatay makes the aid even more essential and urgent.
Following the two earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.8 and 7.4 in the early hours of Monday, thousands of people stranded in the quake zone called for help on social media, asking for rescue teams to save the victims trapped under rubble, while those in the region reported that aid had not reached Hatay.
Citizens spent the night without electricity or any food or tent aid under conditions made even more difficult by the freezing cold in Hatay, one of the worst-hit cities near the Syrian border.
No aid reached the region and the citizens were trying to save their relatives under the rubble with their own efforts, said the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) MP Barış Atay.
“There is no institution, no AFAD (Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority) here. People are just looking helplessly at the collapsed buildings. This place is abandoned.”
“Antakya is no more,” said the city’s sports club Hatayspor’s former chair Zekiye Yiğitbaşı in a live broadcast via telephone on Monday evening.
“Thousands of people died. Thousands of people… We are abandoned. We are abandoned as usual.”
Speaking to Artı TV from Antakya, an earthquake survivor said, “There is no one here. No police, gendarmerie, AFAD. There is no state here.”
“People take bodies of their loved ones and leave them in the schoolyard,” she added, “People will die in plain sight. There is no longer a county called Antakya.”
Suzan Şahin, CHP’s Hatay MP, stated earlier on Monday that seven hours after the initial earthquake, search and rescue efforts had not yet begun.
“No state officials are here. People are dying, we hear their voices coming from inside the collapsed buildings,” she said.
As people trapped under the rubble shared their locations on social media with hopes of reaching for help, Turkish political scientist Kağan Sarıkaya and his team prepared a map of Hatay marking the locations of those in need of rescue.
Haluk Levent, a Turkish musician and the founder of the Ahbap Association, explained that most of the requests for help he received came from Hatay. According to the musician, the number of people seeking help for their relatives who were under the rubble in Hatay is 20,428, while 2,231 people trapped under the rubble have reached out for help using their mobile phones.
There is also a great fire that broke out after the major earthquakes at the port in the Iskenderun district of Hatay, that continues to grow. Locals said that the fire was not responded to in time and became too big to be extinguished. Smoke from the fire in the port covers the Amanos Mountains and explosions occur intermittently.
*Alevis are the largest religious minority in Turkey. Discrimination against the Alevis is rampant in Turkey and the Alevi community has been traumatised by a spate of massacres throughout history dating back to the Ottoman Empire.