Latinos to the rescue in Turkey and Syria
“This is not one humanitarian crisis; there are two: the one in Syria and the one in Turkey. The same natural disaster has caused two different situations.” On the other end of the phone, after several days of communication problems, Dr. Hakan Bilgin, president of Doctors of the World in Turkey, talks to Sol de Medianoche. There is a large Latino presence in solidarity work in both countries.
“In Syria there were no big buildings in the area,” says Hakan Bilgin (Syria is a country at war.) “In Turkey there were big buildings and housing developments. A quarter of the country has been affected.”
These two ways of experiencing the same natural tragedy “forces rescue and humanitarian aid specialists to approach their work in the two countries differently. The international solidarity is impressive and is very much welcomed. But I ask that all citizens of solidarity please be guided by what the professionals tell them at any given moment.”
The coming months and years will be very hard in Turkey and Syria. “It will take decades to rebuild everything and regain normality,” Turkish journalist Sehnan Bolelli of the Anadou agency in Ankara tells Sol de Medianoche. There is a large Latin presence in the solidarity tasks in both countries, such as Los Topos de Tlatelolco Brigade, from Mexico, and the SAMU (Emergency Medical Assistance Service) from Malaga, Spain, among other brigades of Spanish and Latin American firefighters and rescuers.
“There is cholera in Syria and the epidemic will worsen,” says Krystell Santamaría, a Panamanian, disaster risk manager for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries. Krystell is responsible for coordinating all humanitarian aid in Northern Syria. “It’s the most severe earthquake in recent history,” says Sehnan, “but not the worst.” For Syria, however, “it is the most devastating and destructive,” comments Krystell.
More than 60 countries have sent all kinds of supplies and troops for rescue work and medical, psychological, social and material assistance. One of the most outstanding elite groups is “Los Topos.” Fernando Álvarez, from Tlatelolco in Mexico, tries to pass on updated information to Sol de Medianoche. He is trying to make up for the communication problems that this newspaper also had with some of his 22 men assigned to the epicenter of the earthquake.
“It is incalculable at the moment to give figures of dead and injured, because every minute of every day data is being updated. There are more than 6,000 large buildings destroyed in southern Turkey. The earthquake occurred in the early hours of the morning and the population was sleeping in their homes. Imagine what this means in terms of the number of people who may have been trapped in the rubble, injured, or killed,” he says.
From Istanbul and about to move to Al Dana, Syria, in the governorate of Idlib (Antioch), also speaks to Sol de Medianoche the prestigious Spanish businesswoman Letizia Buzón, promoter of an unprecedented project of recovery of the millenary Aleppo soap, giving work to hundreds of Syrian refugees. Five years ago she set up the factory on the Syrian border with Turkey. That is, in the middle of the seismic “ground zero.” “Now it’s all rubbles,” she says, “but we’ll start all over again.”
The Turkish-Syrian tragedy reminds us that Alaska has experienced two of the ten most serious earthquakes in the history of mankind. The first major one, in March 1964, with a magnitude of 9.2 on the Richter scale. So far, it has only been surpassed by another one in Valdivia, Chile, in 1960 (9.5) and the one in Indonesia in December 2004 (9.3). This “Great Alaskan Earthquake” had its epicenter 120 km from Anchorage and is so far the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America.
The second occurred in March 1957, measuring 8.6 on the Richter scale. It originated in the Andreanof Islands; it caused damage in the Aleutian Islands and Hawaii and triggered a tsunami. It caused structural damage in the Adak and Umnak islands and triggered the eruption of the Vsevidof volcano.