Simple examination questions to students: what is an earthquake? How does it occur? And what are its harmful effects? The first two questions could be easier to answer and perhaps less important but the third one is a tough nut to crack. Equally back breaking is to imagine and grasp the devastating effects of an earthquake on human life.
While a natural disaster like an earthquake causes havoc, it at times breaks the barriers and lights the lamp of humanity. This is what has stolen the show in the wake of the massive earthquake shaking Turkey and Syria in the first week of the current month. Aid from both the allies and adversaries rushed to the affected region; rescue operatives flew and landed in a flash in the quake-hit areas. India was part of the noblest rescue mission.
The rising number of the dead and injured pains the heart and soul — more than forty thousand human beings have been killed as of today. Thousands, injured. The consequences of the catastrophe triggered by nature and exasperated possibly by the greed, negligence and callousness are shocking and horrendous. Those killed or orphaned are not just flesh and blood; they are humans with a name, family and life.
From the ocean of pain, suffering and wailing unleashed after the quakes in Syria and Turkey, the lovely job done by the rescuing hands and the discovery of the survivors (pulled out safely from the debris) comes as a balm of comfort for us. More so the rescue operations are done without bias and discrimination by the governments having gone from outside into the two quake-torn countries. (Should Turkey and Syria reciprocate in friendly terms now? For the sake humanity, they should. )
With the post-tragedy work underway and is likely to take weeks, perhaps months, to restore normalcy in the two countries, there are reports of a hunt to bring to book the builders, politicians and institutions seen as responsible for their part in causing the pain , suffering and loss of this extent.
No harm if a probe is conducted and the legal action is initiated against the culprits, if any, but today we must remember that none of the thousands, who have been killed by an earthquake of such a magnitude, can come back. Gone forever is he or she. Instead of seeking vengeance and trading blames, stocktaking should take precedence. And lessons learnt. A recovery phase must begin with the upper strata making a supreme sacrifice — the high earners must donate generously —at this doleful time.
Just leaving the survivors to mourn for their loved ones and doing nothing in reality for them will be disservice and in fact backstabbing. These are testing times for the two countries. Relief and rehabilitation should come first now with the Turkish and Syrian elite taking the call.
Despite the fact that the world is divided along religious and political lines, there have been hours when we saw humanity prevailing; when kindness has won over bitterness; when sacrifice has beaten selfishness; when virtue has prevented evil from winning. To see the point better, take the example of refugees, a global problem.
When people are forced to flee from their homeland due to a natural or man-made disaster, they run for shelter in the neighboring states. Humanity, if political obligations of the host state, embraces them there. Southern Turkey sheltered thousands of refugees, from the war-ridden Syria, before the recent tragedy struck them there. Rhongiya Muslims were provided a roof over their heads in the neighboring Bangladesh following their exodus from Myanmar a few years back. All this is possible because of the respect to human life beyond barriers and borders.
Across Turkey, the rescuers have volunteered to find and save those trapped beneath the rubble. Their bravery and determination bore fruit when— almost a week after the first earthquake— they brought out a 64-year-old mother alive. Her rescue brought tears and confidence in them, encouraging them to work tirelessly day and night to unearth more and more people.
While this wounded woman was being rushed to a waiting ambulance, the people, who had gathered close by to watch silently, started to applaud. They clapped perhaps as a token of respect and appreciation to the brave woman pulled out of the debris and to her rescuers.
In another case, a girl was rescued unhurt after being buried alive for more than 150 hours. She was all over in dust. A small cut on her brow was bleeding. She was shocked and silent, possibly because of the traumatic experience from the catastrophe, with her hands outstretched. Her family's condition is unknown.
Likewise, the rescuers found out an 18- month old Ibrahim and took him to hospital. As nothing was known about his family, they posted images of the boy on social media. Ibrahim’s father, Jomaa Biazid, thus was able to learn that his son was alive.
Worried and crying Jomaa greeted Ibrahim with a kiss and for a little while was without a sign of sadness. Mustafa, the other son of Jomaa, is missing; Jomaa’s wife and daughter passed on in the natural disaster.
In yet another instance, German search and rescue teams found out Zeynep Kahraman very recently in Turkey. They wept in buckets after having saved the life of this 40-year old lady but finding her injured beyond description. And next day they came to know that Zeynep had succumbed to her injuries. She had been trapped for 104 hours under the rubble following the remorseless earthquakes. The rescuers wept again — to lament her tragic death.
A Syrian child with black hair and a yellow coat is pulled from the rubble. The confused boy is handed from one rescuer to another. The rescuers were very happy on saving a life, planting kisses on his cheeks and feeling a sense of relief. And how long he was caught beneath the debris is not known. A big smile broadens across his pale face.
The rescuers happiness is in fact a handsome expression of the goodness and obligation many among us feel to help others in trouble. Whatever be the political rationale behind the rescue operations from the neighbors and beyond to Turkey and Syria, the timely aid and rescue has come as a glimmer of hope that humanity can work wonders even if it just prevails for a few moments over ugliness.
(Author is a teacher by profession and RK columnist. He can be reached on: email@example.com