Monday, August 17, 2009

Remember 17 August 1999

Ten years ago Turkey was living a tragedy. Official figures say 17,480 died, 23,781 were wounded and 285,211 residences were damaged (see the earthquake's wikipedia page in Turkish). Unofficial sources talk about 50,000 deaths and more than 100,000 wounded. Whichever are the right figures, the reality was that hundreds of thousands people lost way too much during the big Marmara Earthquake on 17 August 1999: their lives, their loved ones, their homes, parts of their body, their work, their trust...

Another big earthquake is expected in the same region, it can happen today, tomorrow or any time within the next decades. Yes, it is a natural disaster human beings cannot fight against. But we should be prepared. We should start by not building houses made of sand (shells were found in the building wreck at the time!!!). Government regulations on building need to be stronger and more importantly, it needs to be followed. Rescue teams should be ready at any time. Hospitals should be ready to host everyone. It is too easy to say that nature or God had its say and that there is nothing we can do about it. That's just too easy. We cannot stop an earthquake, but we can make sure that we don't lose hundreds of thousands of lives when one comes our way. And we must not forget the tragedy of ten years ago, not to cry our souls out and feel good about it, but to make sure every single citizen remembers when time comes to vote that they choose the ones that will care about their citizens' well being. And if you wonder what might happen next time, read Mine G. Kirikkanat's novel Bir gün, gece (translated into French as La malédiction de Constantin). Because reality can be scary doesn't mean we don't have to face it.

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