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What It's Like In The Streets Of Adiyaman, Turkey, As Quake Rescue Efforts Continue

A collapsed building is being searched for survivors with a people atop a massive pile of rubble.
Rescuers search for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of a building that collapsed in Adana on Feb. 6.
(Can Erok
AFP via Getty Images)
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On any other Friday night in Adiyaman, a city of more than a quarter million in southeastern Turkey, you'd hear the unmistakable sound of the Adhān, the Muslim call to prayers, resonating from mosques around the city.

But this Friday, the sound of the call to prayer has been replaced by the whine of heavy machinery and the crunch of rubble meeting metal as the residents of this southeastern Turkey city who survived the 7.8 magnitude earthquake continue to dig through building debris for survivors.

"It's Friday and I didn't even realize it because I was not hearing the mosques," NPR correspondent Jason Beaubien told host Larry Mantle on LAist's public affairs show AirTalk — which airs on 89.3 FM.

Beaubien said part of the reason there was no call to prayer was the lack of electricity in the city — anything that did have power was running on a generator. It doesn't mean people aren't still praying, he notes, but it speaks to the way the earthquake has disrupted time in Adiyaman.

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"Time actually seems a bit lost to me as well," he said. "I actually didn't hear the call to prayer all day."

Why it matters

A green domed building is toppled nearly on its side.
A man walks past a collapsed mosque in Adiyaman, Turkey on Feb. 9.
(Ilyas Akengin
AFP via Getty Images)

Adiyaman is a city of about 270,000 mostly Muslim residents. In Islam, Friday (Jumuʿah in Arabic) is the holy day. The fact that Friday prayers weren't happening at mosques underscores how drastically the earthquake has affected people's ability to live their everyday lives.

Friday prayers aren't the only custom that Muslims in the city have had to forego in the wake of the disaster. Beaubien said normally, bodies of the dead would be washed before being buried. Now, with so many dead, rescuers have a dispensation from local imams to skip that step of the traditional burial process.

"I'm not sure that's happening everywhere, that they can take the bodies straight to the cemetery and bury them in these trenches that they've laid out," he said. "They've basically declared [that] the bodies are clean and they can do that, which is quite unusual."

Meanwhile, many survivors lost everything and are sleeping in cars or outside, burning fires in the streets because they're afraid to sleep in a concrete structure, Beaubien said.

He described witnessing tremendous suffering:

"It is heartbreaking, the number of people who are just crying. So many people have lost loved ones. You hear people crying as you walk just about everywhere. And as a reporter, you start interviewing people and the tears well up in their eyes incredibly quickly before you even ask them who they've lost. They're trying to rescue the people who are still inside. And that gives people amazing hope that there are people who potentially are still alive in some of this debris."

What about Syria?

The majority of the dead are in Turkey, but the situation in parts of Syria hit by the quake is also dire. International aid convoys are finally beginning to make their way into parts of rebel-controlled northern Syria, among the hardest hit in the quake. But BBC Middle East Correspondent Lina Sinjab says many Syrians wish the aid arrived days ago.

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"Too little, too late, according to the Syrians trapped in northern Syria," said the Beirut-based Sinjab, who also joined AirTalk Friday. "They say that whatever is arriving is not covering even 20% of their needs," she said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad surveyed the damage to his country on Friday, and blamed the West for shunning his country and refusing to lift sanctions so international aid could come in. But Sinjab noted that sanctions don't apply to humanitarian aid in the case of natural disasters.

"And [we know that] lots of support came into [Syrian] government-controlled areas from governments who are supportive of Assad like China, like Russia, like Iran, like Iraq, like Algeria," she said.

Listen to the conversation

AirTalk Turkey/Syria Quake Update 2-10-23

The backstory

In the early morning hours of Feb. 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake rocked southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria. The death toll had surpassed 24,000 as of Friday and is expected to continue climbing.

The quake's epicenter was near the cities of Nurdağı and Gaziantep, according to the United States Geological Survey.

What you can do

How To Help
  • International Blue Crescent

    • Asking for monetary and supply donations of tents, heaters, blankets, thermal clothes, meals ready-to-eat for at least 5,000 people, first aid kids
    • Operates an office in Turkey, near the epicenter of the quake
    • Reach out to Alper Mavi, a program coordinator
      • +90 538 5159806
  • Turkish Red Crescent

    • Asking for monetary donations through a direct bank deposit (info available here through Twitter)
    • Similar to the Red Cross, it provides medical aid and basic needs supplies such as blankets and food
  • Syrian American Medical Society

    • Asking for monetary donations to buy trauma supplies
    • A medical relief organization that operates hospitals along the Syrian border focused on refugees
  • Karam Foundation

    • Asking for monetary donations
    • Runs a facility along the Turkey/Syria border to educate young leaders
  • Islamic Relief

    • Asking for monetary donations to provide basic needs and supplies
    • Provides emergency relief such as food and health care during natural disasters
  • ShelterBox

    • Asking for monetary donations that will go to general fund to build shelters
    • Will send stoves, thermal blankets, and clothing
  • Donations via Bakkal

    • This grocery-delivery company is collecting donations in L.A. and the Bay Area and delivering them to the local Turkish consulate.
    • Fill out this form if you wish to donate — it includes a list of items that are in demand.
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