Turkey’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said on Tuesday that the country was witnessing one of the largest national disasters in its history, adding that local branches of the party are working around the clock to reach the victims dispersed across 10 provinces.
The two major earthquakes to hit provinces in the mainly Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey on Monday have so far left 3,549 people dead, more than 22,000 injured, and many of the region’s 13,5 million population unable to enter their homes in freezing weather conditions.
“The death toll which reached thousands has been increasing, the interventions are not sufficient and people have been left alone to their fate,” the party’s Board of Democratic Local Governments said in a statement.
“Our efforts are aimed at preventing new casualties and overcoming those dark days by building on solidarity,” the statement said.
The party said all HDP municipalities have been coordinating with the party’s crisis centre to alleviate the suffering of earthquake victims, adding that it has pooled all its resources for these efforts.
“Our municipalities are working 24 hours a day to provide food and shelter and to conduct search-and-rescue operations for citizens and refugees who have been affected from the earthquake,” the HDP said.
“We will overcome this disaster by solidarity. To expand solidarity, our provincial organisations and municipalities are ready to carry aid to earthquake victims. We invite everyone once more to join efforts to grow solidarity,” it added.
Meanwhile, the official Twitter account of the HDP headquarters on Tuesday shared videos of lawmakers reporting from different places affected from the earthquakes.
The footage from Pazarcık (Bazarcix) district of Kahramanmaraş (Mereş), the epicentre of the first 7.8 magnitude tremor on Monday morning, shows a joint delegation from the HDP and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) talking to people in despair, complaining about lack of disaster response efforts.
“The state has been buried under the wreckage,” said Saliha Aydeniz, the co chair of the DBP.
“Nearly all buildings in Pazarcık have been either collapsed or damaged. We see that people are still under the ruins. In some places there are still no rescue efforts,” Aydeniz said.
Aydeniz recalled that the Turkish government boasted continuously about its success in building new roads and residences.
“However, they were the first to collapse,” she said. “Up to now, people have saved those under the rubbles by their own efforts and solidarity. There is nothing this state, this government, has been doing here,” Aydeniz added.
The HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan was in Adıyaman (Semsûr) province. In a video shared by the HDP official account, a woman tells Buldan that she has lost four relatives. “Where are they,” the woman cried, while another one protested that nobody has arrived there to help.
Eş Genel Başkanımız Pervin Buldan, depremden zarar görmüş insanlarımızla dayanışmak için Adıyaman'da. pic.twitter.com/Wv23DQ7GY6
— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) February 7, 2023
Another HDP lawmaker, Kemal Bulbul, also described the situation in Adıyaman. “The most important things needed here is clearing the ruins first and to provide food and water,” he said. The lawmaker said he arrived in the city on Monday just three hours after the first earthquake and has not seen any rescue crews arrive from the state or the presence of state officials.
HDP lawmaker Garo Paylan visited the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır (Amed).
“There are lots of wreckages here and feverish rescue efforts are ongoing. The people are voluntarily participating in these efforts,” he said in a video, adding that one person was saved from ruins early on Tuesday.
“There is a struggle against time and weather,” Paylan said. “Today is critical, we are aware that today we must reach those still alive,” he added.
Paylan said that none of the high-rise buildings in the region were habitable as they were either heavily or moderately damaged.
“All the houses are emptied. There is a severe shelter crisis. Tent and container cities should be set up immediately,” the lawmaker continued.
Most of the rescue efforts in Diyarbakır have been coordinated by civilian organisations. Diyarbakır Protection of the City and Solidarity Platform established a crisis table for disaster response. The head of the platform, Doğan Hatun, told Artı Gerçek that private companies provided equipment for rescue efforts, but the crews of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) were not present.
“Today the ministry announced that almost everywhere has been coordinated by AFAD, but there is no such information,” Hatun said, adding that nobody has arrived to Pazarcık and Elbistan districts of Kahramanmaraş and the Malatya (Meletî) province.
HDP lawmaker Muazzez Orhan Işık visited Gaziantep (Dilok) province on Tuesday and shared a video of a 8-storey, 32-flat building that had collapsed. “The residents of this building themselves are trying to save people under the ruins. So far no rescue teams have arrived,” she said, adding that almost all of the Islahiye district of the province is in the same condition, with people devastated.
Tülay Hatimoğulları, another HDP MP, was in Hatay. Although 24 hours have passed after one of the largest earthquakes in Turkey, there has been no aid distribution, search or rescue efforts,” she said.
“The situation is heartbreaking,” Hatimoğulları said. “Hundreds, maybe thousands of people are under the ruins. Treating this province like a step child continues, as it has in the past,” she added, referring to discriminatory governmental practices against the multi-ethnic, multi-religious city.