UI Faculty from Turkey Weigh in on Quake Disaster

October 25, 2011

Two University of Illinois faculty members from Turkey say small villages near the site of Sunday's earthquake will suffer the most as they await relief.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the southeastern town of Ercis, injuring more than 1300 people and killing hundreds of other people.

Anthropology professor Mahir Saul is from Istanbul in western Turkey, but has spent time in other parts of the country. With the entire country on a fault line, Saul said quakes of a lesser magnitude are a regular occurrence. He said Ercis may be fortunate in that the death toll from Sunday's earthquake isn't much worse.

Saul said deaths and injuries from quakes can often be blamed on the way some buildings were constructed.

"Of course, this is a low income region of the country, and probably some of the buildings were not very well built because people do not have the means," Saul said. "Every time you have something like this, unusually the government is blamed for not enforcing tighter building regulations, for not inspecting, etc, and suspect this is going to happen in this case, too."

Saul said Ercis itself can be easily reached by rescue crews, but he said neighboring villages could be hard to access.

U of I Linguistics professor Ercan Balchi is also from Istanbul. Balchi said there will be an effort within the country's government to reach even the most remote areas.

"I don't think it matters what part of Turkey this earthquake took place, people would react the same way," he said. "They would send aid as they can. So the political atmosphere would not affect the relief efforts in the area."

Both professors say the winter-like conditions in the evening around the country could be the greatest obstacle in getting relief to small villages.

Story source: WILL