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The Earthquake Dividend
By Gregg - 23 Oct, 1999

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Oct 17 - We arrived this morning at the Konya bus depot—heading east to Cappadocia; to Goreme. We'd missed a bus by half an hour and thus had a 2-1/2 hour wait until the next one. So we grabbed an outdoor table at a simple restaurant and ordered our favourite Turkish breakfast—corba (lentil soup) and bread.

The restaurant owner spoke some English and was very friendly. As we started in on our corba he took tea and engaged us in conversation. When he heard that we're American he had more than just small talk to contribute. "Big earthquake in America yesterday." Now he had our attention.

He said he thought it was in Los Angeles—a big one—seven point something.

He allayed some of our concerns by telling us there'd been no fatalities but we were anxious for more news. Evelyn's folks and sister are in LA. Her dad was in Taipei when the big 7.6 hit there last month. And here we are in Turkey where a devestating 7.4—two months ago to the day—reduced a wide swathe of the country to rubble killing some 17,000 people. (17,000 is the official number. Locals in Turkey will tell you this is gross under-reporting—that in fact the number dead is more like 35,000.)

Shoddy construction—a result of a corrupt government—was the main cause of the large number of fatalities. Some 6000 buildings were destroyed and another 150,000 severely damaged over an area stretching 250 kilometers. Many of the buildings that collapsed were built with concrete mixed with sand. Rescuers reported that they'd even seen seashells in the crumbled concrete.

On our way from Ankara to Istanbul a week and a half ago we passed through the areas of worst damage—the areas in and around the industrial cities of Adaparazi and Izmit—along the northeastern shores of the Sea of Marmara. As our bus skirted these cities on the highway, a hush came over the passengers as they craned their necks looking out the windows.

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In most yards tents had been erected. Occassionally we saw rows and rows of tents assembled in an open space. (Seven tent cities with a capacity of 42,000 people have been established in Izmit alone.) Collapsed buildings however, had been demolished and carted away—or at least none were visible from the highway.

In the eastern parts of Turkey we hadn't come across the Turkish Daily News—the country's English language newspaper. But at the bus station in Ankara I found a copy just before boarding the bus to Istanbul. The paper isn't very good but one story I read stayed with me. It was anecdotal, based around a reporter's visit to one of the areas heavily damaged during the earthquake.

The story revolved around a conversation the reporter had with a resident of the area. It focused on the resident's anger towards the government. The two men talked sitting across the street from a vacant lot where just a few weeks before a high-rise apartment building had stood. The resident had seen it come down in the earthquake.

This was just one building of many in the area that had collapsed like a house of cards. A member of parliament owned a Ford dealership on the ground floor. He'd had columns removed to make room for more cars. There had been a dozen or so floors above the dealership. Some sixty people perished.




  Flying the Friendly Roads
  c/o Turkish Hospitality
The Earthquake Dividend

  New York
    New York City
  West Africa
    The Gambia
  Middle East
    Palestinian Territories
    Eastern Anatolia
    Central Anatolia
    Pushkar Fair
    Madhya Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    West Bengal
    Sikkim & the NE
    (Rep. of China - Taiwan)
  USA - San Francisco, CA

"Travel is the soul of civilization."
-- Zora Neale Hurston
  © 1999/2000 ~ All systems purged.