“Miracle” in the Rubble
On February 16, 17-year-old Aleyna Olmez was rescued from an apartment building’s rubble in southern Turkey. This rescue, called a miracle by many, came ten days after an earthquake of 7.8 magnitudes hit Turkey and neighboring Syria.
The total death toll of the earthquake is uncertain; however, estimates currently fall above 40,000 people. This number will likely grow in the following days and weeks, as rescue efforts continue and more rubble is searched.
Although the United States government explains that an earthquake with such an intense magnitude is uncommon, these specific regions of Turkey and Syria were especially ill-equipped to withstand it, due to the infrastructure design of many of their buildings. According to NPR, an estimated 3,000 buildings collapsed, many of them being apartment complexes that were recently constructed. Many residents did not have time to flee because “pancaking” occurred, meaning the tall buildings flattened rapidly, as each layer gave out. This left many trapped inside during the collapse and now buried under layers of rubble.
Another confounding factor that affected the earthquake and relief was the weather in Turkey. A cold front delayed rescue efforts and increased the risk of hypothermia and other health complications for those stuck under rubble for a prolonged period of time.
NPR explained that there was a small time window to rescue those trapped under rubble, typically around four or five days at the most. In response to the crisis, international rescue and relief teams traveled to Turkey and Syria to provide relief. However, many of these teams did not arrive until the latter part of the rescue window, lowering the odds of survival for those trapped in the rubble.
Supportive Communities Drive Relief Efforts
Logistically, much of the aid was coming from within the immediate communities. It took days for a pancaked building to be thoroughly searched, as the recovery process entailed slow work and careful listening for those who may have been calling for help. Civilian aid has proved immeasurably necessary, as they assign people for relief teams to help dig people out once they arrive on site.
Even now, relief aid continues in the affected areas, and stories like Aleyna Olmez’s help families stay hopeful even as their loved ones remain missing. Hope College stands with those impacted by this tragedy, both here and abroad.