Mehmet Ilkay gently stroked his wife's matted brown hair and removed a gold chain from her neck. Handing it to his father, who stood above him, Ilkay said, "I'd like some water, please." Then, slowly and silently, he began to weep.
Ilkay, a 27-year old engineer, was one of many victims trapped under the rubble of hundreds of buildings that collapsed after a powerful earthquake struck Turkey late Friday.
His dead wife Esin was another. Ilkay's legs were buried under a concrete slab, and Esin was lying beneath him, her legs also buried. Ilkay sat patiently for hours as rescue workers and his father sought to free him with picks, shovels and drills.
The official toll rose to 362 dead and 1,800 injured after Turkey's second devastating earthquake in three months ripped through the northwestern province of Bolu. Before the quake, the verdant hilly province was best known for its cordon bleu chefs and as a popular weekend getaway for city dwellers. Turkish officials warned that with around 200 buildings destroyed in the 7.2 magnitude quake, the death toll could rise.
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who toured the devastated region today, described the earthquake as a "great disaster." Transport Minister Enis Oksuz said the cost of the quake could exceed $10 billion, nearly as much as that inflicted by the Aug. 17 temblor, which was broader and struck a more heavily populated region, claiming more than 17,000 lives.
Friday's quake struck just days before leaders of more than 50 countries were to arrive in Turkey for a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Ecevit said the summit would proceed, and first lady Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea arrived today in Ankara, the capital, from Jordan. President Clinton was scheduled to join them on Sunday.
The quake centered on the small town of Duzce with a population of around 100,000. Many buildings also collapsed and some burned down in the neighboring town of Kaynasli. Part of the main highway linking Ankara and Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, collapsed and spilled into a ravine. Roadside tourist stands where ceramic pots and large pumpkins were sold lay in ruins.
In Duzce, Turkish soldiers joined forces with local and international rescue teams to search for survivors. "We were among the first to arrive at the scene during the August 17 quake," said Nasuh Mahruki, the head of Turkey's best known privately run search-and-rescue team. "But this time, the government and the army got here ahead of us. They are doing an excellent job," he said.
Turkey's coalition government, led by Ecevit, a leftist, faced a public outcry over its bungled response in August. But this time thousands of troops were dispatched to the region along with ambulances, mobile hospitals and military helicopters to carry the wounded to nearby hospitals.
Clear skies and mild weather rendered rescue work all that much easier throughout the day.
"We all gained a lot of experience from the previous quake, and now we're using it," said Mahruki.
Mahruki and his men were among those trying to free Ilkay from a collapsed five-story apartment building. "If we don't get him out soon," said Cengiz Aksoylu, a medical doctor affiliated with the group, "he could die of kidney failure because of the pressure on his back and legs."
A 67-member search and rescue team from Fairfax County left for Turkey this morning to assist in the recovery efforts. Dan Schmidt, a spokesman for the Fairfax Fire and Rescue Department, said many of the team members had been deployed to Turkey for the August quake.
Also rushing to Turkey's aid was a team from Greece. Relations between the traditionally hostile neighbors began to warm when Greece sent rescue teams to Turkey in August. Turkey reciprocated by sending a group to Greece when it was struck by a quake soon afterward.
At the main hospital here, the wounded were treated outdoors amid fears that the building would collapse in aftershocks. A gray miniature poodle with a gash on its snout was among the patients. So was Gulsah Medencioglu, 34, a housewife, who was searching for her 3-year-old daughter among the wounded.
"Allah take my life, just spare my daughter," she cried, as a steady trickle of blood ran down the side of her head.
Like many here, Medencioglu had yielded to the temptation of returning to her apartment, which was only partially destroyed in the earlier quake. On Friday it collapsed entirely, but she was pulled out by her neighbors who had stayed in tents erected nearby by the government. "If my daughter has died, it's all my fault, we should have never returned," she said. "I just hope it's not too late."
FATAL FAULT LINE
The North Anatolian Fault System has produced 11 other earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 6.7 since 1939. In 1997, scientists gauged the stress inside the Earth along the fault and estimated a 12% probability that a strong quake would occur south of Izmit within the next 30 years.
(This graphic was not available)
SOURCE: U.S. Geological Survey
CAPTION: A boy cries as he receives medical treatment. The government and army have been praised for their swift and effective response to the quake.
CAPTION: People remain outdoors in Duzce, epicenter of a powerful earthquake that struck western Turkey on Friday, killing 362 and injuring 1,800.
CAPTION: A young earthquake survivor weeps after the 7.2 magnitude quake. Rescue teams have come from Fairfax County and Greece.
CAPTION: A Turkish man cries over the body of his 4-year-old daughter after she was pulled dead from the rubble.