It’s Monday morning and Sam is late to work. The cafe he owns in a quiet residential area of Istanbul is already busy with émigré Russian IT workers tapping away at their laptops and small groups of locals scrolling through the news on their phones in silence. ‘This earthquake,’ he says, walking around the counter and burying his face in his hands. ‘My best friend from back home is trapped under the rubble.’
Sam is from a city near Gaziantep in the south of the country where, just hours earlier, a colossal 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck, destroying around 6,000 buildings across ten separate regions and leaving tens of thousands of people buried in the ruins of their own homes. At 4am, almost everyone was in bed and few had any chance to get out. Now, six days on, more than 28,000 people are confirmed to have been killed and the death toll is still rising as rescuers sift through entire neighbourhoods reduced to smashed concrete and twisted metal.
Videos of a newborn baby pulled from the rubble and a photograph of a man holding the hand of his 15-year old daughter, who died while pinned under a concrete slab, have been shared around the world. However, on Turkish social media, it is clips of brand new apartment blocks, marketed as ‘earthquake proof,’ crumbling into dust that have sparked the strongest feelings, and shock and grief is turning to anger.
‘My friend is a civil engineer,’ says Sam. ‘It’s such a sick irony that an engineer is trapped because he lives in a building that hasn’t been constructed properly.’
‘Many of the collapsed buildings appear to have been built from concrete without adequate seismic reinforcement,’ says Mark Quigley, an associate professor of earthquake science at the University of Melbourne.