Journals from the Earthquake Zone, Feb 7th-Feb 12th

Tuesday, February 7

After the earthquake that took place on Monday morning, we started a call for solidarity from all available channels and arranged a vehicle to go to the earthquake zone at 01.00am on Tuesday. We set off with our supplies, blankets and equipment that we could pack on the 45-seat bus. We arrived in Antakya at the end of a 15-hour journey.

There is stable building left in Antakya. All buildings are either cracked, tilted or completely collapsed. As a first thing, we went to the Armutlu-Akdeniz Coordination Center established in Defne. A commune life has been established here with our comrades and earthquake victims.

The coordination made a large open area and the headman’s hut a living area. An awning has been stretched over the park and some of it has been converted into a kitchen. A huge cauldron is boiling in the middle. A pit was dug on the other side of the park and turned into a toilet by enclosing it. Because there is neither electricity nor water nor a solid building where we can use the toilet of.

There are people staying on the tennis court next to the park. Since it is a large area, we plan to turn it into a dormitory tomorrow. While some of us take care of the planning of the area and the transportation of the supplies, some of us go to search and rescue activities.

We see people who were rescued from the wreckage alive come to the coordination area several times. Those who come are taken to the infirmary established in Defne House. There are paramedics in the field, but the supplies are scarce. That’s why we go to places such as markets, pharmacies, electricians, and hardware stores in the vicinity and procure our needs from them. In the current situation, anything we can find works.

We eat our dinner and plan the next day. We arrange the evening shifts and the search and rescue team. After sharing the duties, we sleep on the bus we arrived. Most of the people also sleep in the surrounding vehicles. The night is cold.

Wednesday, February 8

As a search and rescue team, we get up at 06:00 in the morning. It is very difficult to sleep because of the cold. We have very few blankets for now, we are sharing among ourselves what we have. We put the sandwich made by the night shift in our bags and have our breakfast with canned food and bread. As the weather gets brighter, we divide up the regions, group by group, without wasting any time.

There is a lot of destruction around. On the road, we see a family that is under a rubble. After checking the situation, we realize that we cannot save the only survivor there with the picks and shovels we have. As our equipment is insufficient, we have to leave the family. Time is short, wreckage is a lot.

As we find equipment from the surrounding area, we take it with us and continue on our way. It is very difficult to find anyone other than volunteers around. Except for a few small teams of the fire department, there is no indication of the state’s search and rescue efforts. There is nothing along Armutlu except for two work machines. There is a general shortage of equipment. We are looking for sound along the ruined streets. However, since the condition of the streets is very bad, there is rarely any sound coming from the wreckage.

Towards the square, the revolutionaries have set up aid tents, and parcels are distributed to the people. Surrounding the wreckage is full of people seeking help. Since most of the wrecks require a drill or construction equipment, our assistance is very limited. All we can do is search for sound and help working teams. However, there are still people saved.

We wander around the neighborhoods looking for sounds all day long. While we are resting, we meet a boy named Nur. Nur is going to the first grade. He is even the class president. He meets all of us individually. He says that if his house was not damaged, he would invite us for coffee. We say that’s okay, we are sitting in the park together. Antakya is finished, it could never exist again, he says, under the influence of what he heard from his surroundings. We say that we will rebuild it together. Nur wants a purple, lilac and pink house. We like this idea very much and leave the field. Nur hugs us all.

While continuing our work, we also collect materials for the needs of the area of the coordination center. In the evening, we return to the field with our hands full. Although there are people we have saved, there are many people we have not been able to save. Our of necessity, we act according to our possibilities.

In the meantime, in the area, clothes from the aid parcels are being distributed. The boxes are piled up in the middle and the surrounding is closed, and people are in a line in front of them, telling the clothes they want. However, as sometimes it was difficult to form a line, there were moments when we had difficulties due to the mixture of supplies that will satisfy people’s needs. Even though there were those who wanted to take more than necessary, we tried to maintain order by communications political explanations and keeping calm. Aside from this, there are those among the people who help us. So we distribute together.

One of the challenges here is earthquake survivors in distress. Since the first day of the earthquake, the lack of support from the state, any support aside from the volunteers, and the lack of sufficient support increased the fear of people and led to the development of a protective attitude. Everyone is left alone in a great crisis.

We are constantly telling that we cannot get out of here without solidarity. In addition to those who cannot control their nerves, there are many who thank us. We don’t need a lot of thanks though. We did not come here to help, but to build a common life together. Tomorrow we plan to build a kindergarten for children.

Thursday, February 9

After keeping our shifts by the fire in the cold of the evening, we start the day by sharing tasks in the morning. Dormitory will be arranged, some structures will be built and incoming materials will be transported. Many trucks are scheduled to arrive today. Many earthquake survivors are also starting to come to the area. The field is growing.

At the same time, the number of volunteers is increasing. Apart from our comrades from other provinces, doctors and cooks, volunteers from other provinces also come to the field. We are renovating the kitchen and the infirmary. A new toilet is being installed thanks to the builders. We connect heating stoves to dormitories. People won’t be cold tonight.

With the new arrivals, the area is now much more active. Everyone is working hard. Everywhere we look, new works appear. The supplies are brought in, the builders are building structures, the cooks line up the kitchen, everyone develops the space. We unload the constantly arriving trucks to the area. Since the area in the park is running out, we are turning the new areas into warehouses. Our load is too much, we have little time.

Most of the people in the field work fast without showing that they are tired. Others try to act too fast by giving themselves too much work. However, the weakest link determines the strength of the chain. Especially acting fast increases mistakes and costs. We warn our self-consuming comrades. After all, we need to keep our energy for tomorrow.

This time, we organize and distribute the parcels of clothes as such. Delivery is much faster when you know where everything is. However, since the density is still high, it is necessary to think of another solution. We are considering leaving the boxes open for the next days. At night, everyone disperses to their shifts. Some high-spirited friends sleep in the open, wrapped in blankets by the heating stove. It’s a bit dangerous, it’s too cold.

Friday, February 10

We start the day by waking up in the cold bus. Next up is breakfast. Water tanks of five to ten thousand liters came to the area at night. Today, water tanks will be installed in the area. Water will come from groundwater drawn from a well dug nearby.

Meanwhile, two people who came to take goods from the warehouse are trying to secretly take a gas canister in addition. We can’t give our canister to anyone at the moment, as it is necessary to warm everyone. We have 20 canisters in total, and for 150 people we try to warm on the tennis court (dormitory), 6-7 tubes are used every night, so even 1 tube will prevent 150 people from staying warm. Even though people come with anger, we try to calm the atmosphere and explain the situation.

In the rest of the day, a new dormitory is built, the water tank is prepared, new toilets are coming. However, we cannot connect the toilets today due to lack of equipment. Everywhere there is an intense work going on.

In addition to all these, we see that there is a lack of action and criticism, especially for the works that cannot be done or are done incorrectly. For this reason, instead of discussing the issues openly, they can turn into lamentation among friends. The shortcomings of decisions made yesterday can create resentments when they are not discussed. It is necessary to be open, to see the shortcomings, to criticize and to take action.

Later in the day, a new generator is brought to the site. We now have electricity. Also, since everyone is dirty, we set up a system where we can heat water and take a shower in order to get cleaned. Everyone can now take a shower. Cleanliness is an important element.

Today, the state is starting to make its presence felt more, sending its police and soldiers more often. It clearly shows that it will enter the area if they not intervened. Today the police slapped a child and a fight broke out. We learned the other day that TEM police threatened our comrades. We need to grow the movement. We want to spread such areas more and to establish coordination centers in the surrounding areas.

At night, another intervention comes to the area. Many vehicles passing that have flashing lights used in police cars drive by, shouting that the dam has burst and water may come at any moment. Our panicked comrades, at the same time, wake everyone up with all their might to clear the area of two hundred people, and we gather in the area. Even though everyone is in a panic, we are clearing the area quickly. Within 5 minutes, we learn that the news is unfounded, and we quickly return to the area so that there is no looting or intervention from the state. This state of panic, which is a challenging experience for everyone, is a very important lesson shows us the importance of maintaining calm and increasing security measures in the field. Therefore, we strengthen the shifts.

Saturday, February 11

We wake up after the crisis and sleepless night. Many people express their discomfort in various ways due to the effect of the event. There are also many people leaving the area. As a team, we also arrange a bus. However, the work continues, the trucks continue to arrive, and the aid continues.

On the other hand, our efforts to maintain control of the area continue. Children are playing games in the kindergarten we opened the previous day. In another part of the area, veterinarians for animals take care of the animals affected by the earthquake. There are many animals around, many of them come to the area because they are hungry. Sometimes we have to deal with male dogs, which often bother female dogs.

Since the drains of the incoming toilets are very narrow, they get clogged quickly. However, since we connected electricity to the toilets of the Defne house, they are now open for use. So now we have a slightly cleaner place.

As the day goes on, we carry a lot of supplies thanks to a trailer we attained. In fact, other solidarity zones next to our area are asking us to use the trailer. There are also various centers there, although not as big as ours. It seems that the revolutionaries are keeping the region afloat.

In the evening, one of our cooks has a seizure. Immediately after, there is an earthquake, the effect of which is felt. Although these two events, which happened in the same minute, seem to cause people to panic, our calmness prevents a new crisis. People look at our reactions a lot, so our calmness is essential.

Evening watch is tighter than yesterday. We no longer go outside from the area at night for security reasons. But since the guards are on their toes, we all feel the tenseness in the air.

Sunday, February 12

We start the day with the arrangement of the area. Warehouses are extremely chaotic because they are often mixed up. However, our work becomes easier thanks to the 45-person bus from Izmir. Our new partners and comrades are coming to the field.

Today, many of our comrades are seeing the results of their fatigue. Our unspoken problems come to light one by one. For this reason, there are many who are connected to the IV, take medicine, and bandage their wounds. At the same time, everyone’s tension is high because there are works outside the earthquake zone. We are trying to act with the necessity of throwing away the troubles and opening ourselves better. Troubles become the engine of action.

In the nursery, children forget about the earthquake while exhibiting their paintings. They are also good friends with dogs. Our daily rhythm continues despite everything. To make a dining hall, the comrades are trying to find or make a table. One comrade disassembles the electric scooter, others find bikes. Aside from transporting the trucks, the rhythm of the work continues to increase. The building is rising, rising.


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