Turkey’s second major earthquake of the year has now claimed at least 575 lives. It struck the eastern town of Ercis, which has nearly 100,000 inhabitants, on Sunday. More than 180 people have been pulled from the wreckage, including a 13 year old boy in the early hours of yesterday, but now hopes of finding anyone else alive are fading.
Tens of thousands of people have been made homeless, and the nights are freezing cold. Most of those living in the region are Kurds – an ethnic minority that has been battling to have its own country - and the Turkish government had been criticised for what some saw as a sluggish initial response.
I was in Istanbul at the time of the last earthquake in May, which struck the western Kutahya region, about 100 miles away, killing two people. Some people in Istanbul said they felt the tremor, though I did not.
Perhaps the worst earthquake in Turkey’s history was the one that destroyed the famous city of Antioch in 526, killing up to 300,000 (see my blog of Jan 22, 2010). The deadliest of recent years was the Izmit quake of 1999, which caused at least 17,000 deaths in the area, about 40 miles from Istanbul.