Brothers sleep in car while searching for missing Canadian sister in Turkey
Two brothers have flown from Canada to southern Turkey to search for their missing sister, who has not been heard of since last Monday’s earthquake.
Samar Zora, 33, is from Halifax. She was living on the ground floor of a five-story apartment building in Antakya, Hatay province, doing research for her PhD in anthropology when the tremors hit. Her brothers Muthana and Saad have not heard from her since.
Unsatisfied with the support they received from the Canadian embassy, the brothers traveled to the disaster area to search for her themselves. They plan to stay as long as it takes.
“This is our situation, but this is one of thousands. We sit and weep with the local Turks,” Saad told CBC News Network.
CLOCK | The desperate search for a missing Canadian in Turkey:
“We have to confirm her. We have to see her. We must have a proper burial out of respect for the dead,” Muthana added.
The brothers sleep in a car and ask everyone for help. They have stopped rescue teams from South Korea and Hungary and have been told it may take a month for heavy equipment to reach Samar’s building to remove debris.
A few days ago, someone with a thermal imaging device visited the site and told Muthana where to dig. Three local men pitched in but had to stop because it was too dangerous.
The brothers have also contacted one of Samar’s friends and are searching local hospitals and a cemetery where mass burials are being conducted.
Turkish law officials target contractors
As the desperate ground search for survivors continues, Turkish authorities are targeting contractors allegedly involved in buildings that collapsed in the powerful February 6 earthquake that killed more than 33,000 people. Rescue workers found more survivors in the rubble on Sunday, including a pregnant woman and two children.
The death toll from the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude quakes, which struck nine hours apart in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, rose to 33,179 and would certainly increase if search teams find more bodies. As despair at the excruciatingly slow rescue effort turned to anger, the focus was on blame.
Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said 131 people were being investigated for alleged responsibility for building buildings that failed to withstand the quake. While the tremors were powerful, victims, experts and people across Turkey blamed faulty construction for multiplying the devastation.
Turkey’s building codes match current seismic engineering standards, at least on paper, but they are rarely enforced, which explains why thousands of buildings have collapsed or fallen on the people inside.
Among those under scrutiny were two people arrested in Gaziantep province on suspicion of cutting down pillars to make extra space in a collapsed building, state-run Anadolu Agency said.
The Justice Ministry said three people were in pre-trial detention, seven had been arrested and another seven had been banned from leaving Turkey.
Authorities at Istanbul Airport on Sunday arrested two builders blamed for the demolition of several buildings in Adiyaman, private news agency DHA and other media reported. The two were reportedly en route to Georgia.
One of the detained contractors, Yavuz Karakus, told reporters, “My conscience is clear. I have built 44 buildings. Four of them were demolished. I did everything according to the rules,” DHA quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, the efforts of Italian and Turkish rescuers paid off when they found a 35-year-old man from the rubble in the hard-hit city of Antakya. He appeared unharmed when he was taken on a stretcher to an ambulance, private television NTV reported.
A child was freed overnight in the town of Nizip in Gaziantep, state-run Anadolu Agency reported, while a 32-year-old woman was rescued from the ruins of an eight-story building in Antakya. According to NTV, when she came out, she asked for tea.
In Kahramanmaras, near the epicenter of the first quake, workers tried to reach a survivor who was spotted by dogs under a now derelict seven-story building, NTV reported.
Those found alive, however, remained the rare exception.
A large temporary cemetery was built on the outskirts of Antakya on Saturday. Backhoes and bulldozers dug pits in the field while trucks and ambulances loaded with black body bags kept arriving. The hundreds of graves, no more than a meter apart, were marked with simple wooden boards.
Hatay Airport, where the runway was damaged, reopened on Sunday, the transport ministry said, which should help bring aid to the region.
There are 34,717 Turkish search and rescue personnel involved. On Sunday, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that representatives from 74 countries with a total of 9,595 employees had joined them. Eight other countries are expected to send search and rescue teams with 874 personnel, it said.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the pain would spread forward, calling the disaster an “unfolding tragedy affecting millions”.
“The deepening conflict crises, COVID, cholera, economic decline and now the earthquake have taken an unbearable toll,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters from the Syrian capital Damascus.
Tedros said WHO experts were waiting to get to north-west Syria “where we have been told the impact is even worse”.
Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who visited the Turkish-Syrian border on Sunday, said Syrians were “looking for international aid which has not arrived”.
“We have failed the people of north-west Syria so far. They rightly feel let down,” he said, adding, “My duty and our obligation is to rectify this failure as soon as possible.”