At 22 New Bosnia Street in downtown Sakarya, Arzu Ceviker, a slim young woman with auburn hair, fought her way out of a coffin-size space in the crumbled apartment building that had entombed her for 17 hours.
But she could do nothing more for her 52-year-old father, Ali, than feed him biscuits as he lay fully visible at the bottom of a narrow shaft beneath the ruins. Caught by his ankle in a dark pocket in the rubble and unable to move, Ali died this morning as Arzu watched him from above, helpless. No rescuers were in sight.
"I heard him sneezing at 3:30 a.m.," she said, weeping softly. "I heard him shouting, `Arzu, my daughter, my baby!' "
It is hard to say whether Sakarya was scruffy or scenic, or whether its sun-scorched streets were indolent or bustling before an earthquake hit western Turkey early Tuesday morning. What is plain is that today Sakarya, the scene of much suffering like Arzu's, is traumatized and transformed and will remain so for a long, long time.
Sakarya, 90 miles southeast of Istanbul and the farthest east of the major cities pulverized by the earthquake, is a tableau of destruction, death and despair. There is fury here, too -- fury at construction standards that allowed so many flimsy buildings to be erected on a geological fault line, and fury at rescue efforts judged by many to be inadequate.
Nearly 600 bodies have been pulled from collapsed buildings in Sakarya thus far, most of them within a few blocks of the city center. Hundreds more people were still trapped tonight, probably dead. More than half the buildings here are damaged, especially the newer apartment houses, and many were destroyed. It is difficult to walk a block without encountering a calamity.
In Sakarya's central square, a broad, leafy plaza ringed by buildings leaning at crazy angles and piles of rubble, local officials were besieged by hundreds of citizens, grieving, desperate and irate. They gathered under a tent erected in front of the town hall, and the din of their pleadings was deafening. A few clerks manned typewriters. There were no computers. No running water. No functioning phones. No electricity. No blankets.
Celal Dincer, the city's deputy governor, is the model of a calm and matter-of-fact man, but he seemed to wither under the force of emotions flung at him. He cannot possibly solve all the problems confronting him, but he seemed determined to listen.
"We're out-of-towners from Istanbul, and we have relatives here!" bellowed a burly man with a mustache whose sleeves were rolled to his elbows. "No one will help us! We've been sent from one official to another! We want to rescue our friends and relatives! We want to dig, but we have been given no equipment!"
At the state hospital on the edge of town, the injured lay on cots under tents. The hospital was too heavily damaged to care for them indoors. Turkey's health minister, Osman Durmus, was here Tuesday when a severely injured pregnant woman arrived by ambulance. Doctors performed an emergency Caesarean section, but neither mother nor baby survived. It was, the minister said, the most depressing scene he has seen in two full days of touring the quake-damaged zone.
A booming industrial city, Sakarya has grown dizzyingly for at least a decade as its industry and commerce developed. Turks from smaller towns and villages arrived to work at the city's corporate behemoths -- its Toyota and Goodyear plants, and pharmaceutical concerns. The population expanded at a rate of 10 percent a year.
To accommodate the thousands of new workers and their families, hundreds of apartment buildings rose around the city, crudely built and of cheap materials. If there were special construction standards for building on a known fault line, they were never enforced. In the midst of such a building boom, no one was paying much attention, officials acknowledged. The town, with a population of 350,000, has 15 building inspectors.
It is, said some Turks, an old story. After a quake in the southern city of Adana killed 150 people last year, three or four building contractors were jailed, briefly. But they were soon released, and nothing really changed, according to Bahadir Acuner of Adana's Board of Civil Engineers.
Acuner, who came here to call attention to construction inadequacies, said that if tough standards had been applied uniformly in Sakarya, no buildings would have collapsed and no one would have died.
"Look at that building -- there's not even a crack," he said, pointing to a bank at the corner of Sakarya's main plaza, one of the few intact structures downtown. "But go two steps farther down the street, and there's a pile of rubble."
Dincer, the deputy governor, acknowledged that new buildings were constructed virtually without inspection or oversight and that relatively tall apartment buildings were permitted, which he called "a mistake" on the city's part.
Said rescue worker Tunc Findik: "There are no rules, and there are very cheap materials. The foundations are just one or two meters deep instead of four or five meters. . . . I'd guess there won't be any new rules because the value of human life isn't high here, as in any Third World country. If you want to make something cheap, Turkey is the place."
Across the city, Turkish and foreign rescue workers scrambled over twisted heaps of masonry, trying to listen for the voices of trapped survivors. But there were too few to examine all the destruction sites, and many had only the rudest equipment. The city has too few cranes and not enough rescue equipment, officials said.
One team from the Turkish capital, Ankara, rushed to Sakarya Tuesday despite having trained only in avalanche and missing-persons operations. Team members carried only sledge hammers and wore mining helmets with lights affixed to the fronts.
"Everyone says there are so many rescue teams arriving, but they haven't done anything," said Fikret Matpan, a retired butcher.