“The situation is not good, a long night awaits us,” says Arus Safa, who works for Caritas in Turkey, on the phone from Istanbul. The earthquakes that have struck the Turkey-Syria border, reaching magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.6, have killed at least 3,000 people, injured more than 11,000 and collapsed 5,000 buildings. Among them, the church of the city of Arsuz or the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Alejandreta (Iskenderun in Turkish), monuments that were photographed just a few days ago by Safa’s own daughter during her school vacations.
“He visited most areas of Hatay province – the epicenter of one of the earthquakes – because we have relatives there.” They are fine, but many friends can’t say the same. «We are in contact, but the situation is tremendously difficult: it is very cold, it rains and there is snow from the last few days. Electricity comes and goes. Many people are on the street. We hope they can survive, but the night is going to be really long.”
Also in Istanbul finds the woman of Pedro Rodríguez. The earth has not been felt to shake there, but it is the epicenter of many people who cannot contact their relatives. “All this has caught me in Madrid, which I don’t know if it is better or worse,” Rodríguez, whose political family is from the epicenter area, told ABC. Fortunately, everyone is fine. “But we have friends and acquaintances trapped under the buildings. Hospitals are collapsed. It’s a catastrophe.”
Rodríguez relates that they have been waiting for a great earthquake for years. Already in 1999. Istanbul registered an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 that caused more than 17,000 deaths. It has not been the last: in 2011 two earthquakes caused 700 deaths and in 2020 an earthquake killed 26 people but injured 800. And in everyone’s minds that of 1939 still persists, an earthquake that caused 33,000 deaths and more than 100,000 injured. “We all expect something like that in the next few years. And as it happens in Istanbul, the victims will multiply by ten.
Your fears are not unfounded. Turkey is a country with high seismic activity, since it is located on the Anatolian plate. This is, in turn, between the Eurasian, African and Arabian plates. Several faults run through the country, and the most dangerous, according to experts, is the one that passes very close to Istanbul. “Now we are afraid that this is a preview of what is to come.”
Safa, for her part, focuses more on the present. Or, rather, in the near future. “Everything indicates that the numbers will not stop growing in the coming days and we will not have the real impact of the tragedy until time passes. And then the damage will have to be assessed, which will take months. There is still a long and sad journey ahead.