Daily Israel Report

Miracles in Turkey's Disaster Zone

The temperature in eastern Turkey is falling. Search and rescue is becoming recovery, but there have been miracles in the earthquake zone.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 10/26/2011, 5:30 PM

Airplane landing at Ben Gurion - illustrative
Airplane landing at Ben Gurion - illustrative
Flash 90

The temperature in the province of Van in eastern Turkey is falling, and snow is predicted.

Search and rescue teams are rapidly being transformed into recovery units, as officials begin to abandon hope that anyone else is still alive under the wreckage of buildings flattened by the worst earthquake to hit the region in a decade. The 7.2-magnitude temblor hit Van three days ago.

But there have been miracles -- and questions by local residents who find it difficult to understand why their government didn't ask other countries for help, right away.

A 27-year-old English teacher, Gozde Bahar, was pulled out from under the wreckage of a building Wednesday -- three days after the earthquake hit. On Tuesday, two-week-old baby Azra, born prematurely, was also rescued from a collapsed building. The tiny girl brought tears and smiles to those around her.

Three other unlikely survivors managed to communicate their presence under a deep pile of rubble on Wednesday as well.

A demolished building in central Ercis was on the brink of being abandoned and the power shut off by rescue teams when the three called the outside world using their cell phones from under the wreckage.

Until that point, there had been no reception, due to a massive concrete slab under which they were buried. Workers hurriedly restored the power and got back to digging.

Tents are at a premium in the increasingly cold weather, with tens of thousands of homeless people waiting for the mobile homes Ankara requested from its neighbors. The Turkish government has also asked for emergency materials, tents and containers.

Some 30 foreign nations have offered aid to the stricken area.

Israel, which told Ankara it would do everything it could to provide "anything Turkey asks for" was asked for prefabricated homes. The Defense Ministry on Wednesday sent seven such units on a chartered civilian Boeing 747 plane.

However, no medical supplies, personnel or rescue teams were requested, tying Jerusalem's hands and preventing Israel from providing further aid.

"We weren't asked," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Arutz Sheva Wednesday afternoon.

"We offered to provide, to the best of our ability, anything they need -- but this was all they requested. You can't force a sovereign government to accept help they don't want.  It's that simple," Palmor said.

Meanwhile, a senior rescue official in Van told the Reuters news service, "Search and rescue operations in the center of Van are now over. We have reached the bottom of the wreckage and searches are now over in the center of Van."

Although the current official death toll stands at 459, officials said they expected it to rise as more bodies are found with recovery efforts, due to the hundreds of missing people.

Japan, which itself was struck by an earthquake Wednesday, has donated $400,000 to the disaster effort.