Sitting outside a sports stadium that’s been turned into a make-shift medical center in the quake- struck Turkish city of Ercis, two emergency workers enjoyed a brief respite from their toils.
For Kursat Guzlek, 36, an anesthetic technician with UMKE, Turkey’s emergency rescue service, the 7.2-magnitude quake that triggered devastation in the east of Turkey on October 23 is horribly familiar. Twelve years ago, he was among the crews that struggled to find survivors following the huge quake that struck Izmit in western Turkey, claiming 18,000 lives.
“Back then they didn’t have enough rescue teams, they were too slow, but now Turkey is ready for any earthquake,” Guzlek said. “It’s much more organized this time. We’re prepared for it. More equipment is available and we got it here more quickly.”
With the official death toll now standing at 430 and with possibly thousands more people buried in the rubble of ruined buildings in Ercis and the neighbouring city of Van, comparisons are inevitably being drawn between the two quakes.
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Alexander Christie-Miller is an Istanbul-based journalist, now reporting from Ercis.