Aftermath of Tremors in Turkey
By “Awake!” correspondent in Turkey
THE earthquake that devastated the region around Lake Van in eastern Turkey on November 24, 1976, was the worst Turkish quake in nearly forty years. It measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and ravaged an area of some 300 square miles (800 square kilometers). At least 120 towns and villages were affected. Some victims, isolated by eight inches (20 centimeters) of snow that blocked the narrow mountain roads, received very little aid. Hence, a great many of the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 persons left homeless suffered from exposure and hunger in temperatures below freezing.
As of December 7, government authorities said that 3,790 persons had died. But other sources suggest that possibly as many as 7,000 met death in the disaster area, in a situation complicated not only by freezing weather conditions but also by problems associated with rescue and relief operations.
According to reports from the area, rescue operations set up primarily by the Turkish army have been hampered seriously by gasoline shortages, lack of medical supplies and, perhaps worst of all, by corruption and chaos in the distribution of blankets, food, thermal tents, mobile hospitals, stoves and fuel donated by a number of countries. Whole truckloads of essential supplies from other parts of Turkey have been “lost” on the way. Allegations that the rich and influential have been the only ones really benefiting from the aid have been confirmed by foreign journalists and by Turkish relief workers in the quake zone itself.
Many Turkish people have expressed their disapproval of the abuses in relief and distribution. But far more significant have been the efforts of so many to provide aid for needy persons caught in dire straits after the Lake Van catastrophe. While none of Jehovah’s Witnesses live in that area, or were directly affected by the earthquake, they share concern for suffering fellow humans and especially seek to bring them “comfort from the Scriptures.”—Rom. 15:4.