Feature: Turks rally to support earthquake victims

by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Following two massive and deadly earthquakes that have hit southeastern Türkiye and Syria, citizens in the capital city Ankara have rallied to support those in need with disaster relief material.

"We cannot sleep in our comfortable beds when there are still people trapped in the rubble in many cities," Ozlem Seckin, a 50-year-old realtor, said with tears in her eyes.

Two major earthquakes of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitudes hit the province of Kahramanmaras Monday. At least 3,549 people have been killed and over 22,000 injured in the disaster, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a television address on Tuesday.

"We have brought some diapers, baby formula, and clothes for children. We have various clothing garments for adults as well," Seckin told Xinhua while dropping things off at an aid collection center in the Cankaya district.

"We have seen that, despite government efforts, still there are many, many people who lack basic stuff, like warm clothing, heaters or food because the quakes hit a vast stretch of areas, so we have a duty to help them," she added.

Dozens of collection centers have been established by government institutions, municipalities, and private enterprises in Ankara, as well as others cities across Türkiye.

Fan heaters, blankets, dry food, sanitation kits, women's sanitary items, clothes, sleeping bags, power banks and gloves are among the essentials listed by the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

Burhan Deriner, a civil engineer experienced in quake aid coordination, brought several parcels of clothes and baby food to a center managed by the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality.

The aftermath of Monday's earthquakes stirred up his memory of struggling to save lives in the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit northwestern Türkiye in 1999.

"I was a university student then, but the pain is exactly the same. When you think that many people have lost their loved ones, or struggling to reach them under the ruble, it's emotionally devastating," he said.

In a disciplined and coordinated manner, workers at the center were logging and sorting the items donated by citizens.

Zerrin, a young volunteer who declined to offer her surname, said urgent needs requests from campaign representatives in the disaster areas would be sent both to the crisis center in city centers and to competent authorities in quake-hit cities.

Her team was preparing several truckloads of relief material bounded for Kahramanmaras province, the epicenter of the quakes, by Tuesday evening, she noted.

"To support relief efforts and help those in need is a moral duty for every able citizen," Zerrin added.

A blood donation campaign has been launched hours after disaster struck in Türkiye's big cities by the Turkish Red Crescent. Dozens of citizens were seen waiting in line in Ankara on Monday evening to donate blood, local media reported.

Fundraisers have also been launched in many European countries which are home to Turkish diasporas of workers, such as Germany and the Netherlands.

Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency in the ten earthquake-hit provinces, calling the quakes the country's worst disaster in nearly a century. It is the second most damaging quake since the one in 1999 that killed 17,000 people in northwestern Türkiye.

Following an international appeal for help, Erdogan said 45 countries had offered support, including China.

A Chinese non-governmental rescue team from the southeastern Chinese city of Hangzhou is scheduled d to arrive in earthquake-stricken areas in Türkiye late on Wednesday. The team consisted of eight experts with rich international earthquake rescue experiences.

Türkiye lies in one of the world's most active earthquake zones.

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