Quakes don’t kill

Quakes don’t kill

The Elazığ-centered quake was very painful. So many people lost their lives and over 1,000 people were injured — some in critical condition. Unfortunately, some of the wounded will carry for the rest of their lives the memories of the disaster that hit them. Hopefully, the Turkish state and society will undertake whatever assistance and help possible to ease their lives.

Those who lost their lives were the beloved ones of some other people. A man in his 50s was crying in front of cameras that he lost his brother and now was left alone. Another woman was crying over why she was salvaged from under the debris of a collapsed building, while her son and husband lost their lives. The death of a husband must be a very serious loss in a society, with women having very limited economic activity and thus are dependent. There are other problems for widowed women, but becoming a burden on relatives and being devoid of the capacity to lead an individual life must be worse than death…

Gender equality, or having equal opportunities, is no joke or a topic of discussion over cocktail in urban Turkey. Turkey must transform itself into a better society by making her female population independent, far better education and definitely equipped with the capability of standing on their own feet. This perennial problem will not be solved from today to tomorrow, unfortunately, but it must be the duty of all those who claim to care for this nation and country to work to achieve this goal.

Turkey needs, of course, a mental transformation. The Turkish state and society must wake up to the reality that actions speak louder than words and there is absolutely a pressing need to stop talking and take action. We keep on talking and writing, for example, since the 1999 quake flattened the industrial heartland of the country, the Marmara region, not only killing thousands of people, but devastating the economic life of Turkey.

Since that time there has been talk in this country of the need to improve the quality of housing and be prepared for an anticipated Istanbul quake that all of us fear might be a catastrophe. What has been done over the past two decades? Since 2001, there has been a levy on phones, alcohol, cigarettes and many other items, which the state said would be collected in a fund to finance improving the housings of the country and minimize impacts of future quakes.

No one can stop quakes. No one can predict when a quake will hit. But as we have all been saying for the past more than two decades, quakes don’t kill, but poorly constructed buildings do. No one is accusing the government. Indeed, the government was rather fast and efficient in reaching and trying to comfort the citizens in peril. Up until a few decades ago, Turkey needed military intervention to overcome challenges posed by such disasters. It was great to see civilian teams effectively serving the nation.

Yet, whose mistake was it in that Malatya village that was totally flattened by the quake, where citizens lost their lives and all the houses were constructed of mud bricks? Why? How did all apartments remain intact in a neighborhood, but one completely collapsed on its residents? Did the owners of the shop on the ground floor remove a pillar to make more space, as alleged? Why did municipality inspectors not find such an abnormality before the quake hit and the building collapsed?

Rather than talking of the reduction of sentences – some sort of amnesty to make space in over-crowded prisons – perhaps Turkey should consider the effective implementation of sentences.

Quakes don’t kill… Ignorance, officiousness, bootlicking and such perennial behavioral ailments kill.