At this stage of the disaster, offering moral and logistical support is far more important than amplifying allegations centred on Türkiye's construction boom.

Türkiye’s southeastern provinces were jolted by twin earthquakes with staggering 7.7 and 7.6 magnitudes leaving a massive trail of death and destruction. Türkiye’s disaster management teams scrambled to the areas hit by the calamity, but the enormity of it was so overwhelming that Ankara immediately announced the Level 4 alert, seeking outside help. 

No stranger to tremors, Türkiye is among the 10 most earthquake-prone countries in the world. Monday's twin tremors are by far the most destructive and apocalyptic ones the country has experienced since 1939. At least ten provinces, as large as Cuba, are directly affected, with a population of 13.5 million reeling from the disaster. The neighbouring northern Syria is suffering too.

More than anything else, Türkiye and Syria need humanitarian support. More than rhetoric, we need action – rescue teams, technical support, and any logistical assistance to our foreign missions in organising aid. But unfortunately, a section of Western media has started mudslinging the Turkish government at a time when the country is neck-deep busy supervising search and rescue missions across the country. 

One particular allegation floating in foreign media organisations is centred on the construction boom witnessed in the past 20 years of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governance. At a time when successive aftershocks spread fear and panic in the disaster-hit region, Western media organisations are publishing reports and op-eds claiming that Türkiye's "construction-driven" economic growth is largely to be blamed for the soaring death tolls in quake-hit areas. The government is being accused of turning a blind eye to upholding crucial building and safety standards. Such allegations are being played on a loop.

Although all the collapsed buildings must be investigated and stakeholders punished if they are found guilty of violating the construction norms, the government should be given space to focus on the search and rescue operations and implement contingency plans such as housing tens of thousands of people who lost their homes in the past four days as well as providing healthcare and other essential supplies to the affected populations. 

Amplifying critical voices during a natural disaster can be perceived as an ugly attempt to politicise the crisis. From geologists to world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, every rational mind can see how unprecedented and enormous is the scale of Monday's twin quakes. The second earthquake that occurred in close proximity to the first one and with an equally high magnitude makes this disaster a rare phenomenon in recorded seismic history. 

Türkiye is not the only country in the world with a mass of constructions that are either old or may not pass the earthquake safety test. The US has a dense mass of unsound buildings too. For instance, take Los Angeles: its municipality has no records of how many buildings across the city are non-ductile. In 2013, an independent analysis pointed out that at least 1000 buildings in LA city and hundreds more in other counties were prone to collapsing if ever a high-magnitude earthquake occurred. 

In light of Türkiye's double tremors, there is a lot to process. Peculiarities such as the multiplicity of the main fault lines and the seismic rupture at a shallow depth have made this disaster one of the worst in the region. The impact was so hard that roads and motorways were cracked open and buildings crashed like a pack of cards. Even the 2000-year-old Gaziantep Castle faced severe damage despite being renovated several times in recent history. 

While the focus at this stage must remain on rescuing as many people as possible and retrieving the bodies underneath the rubble, the government must probe the buildings to find out where the construction laws were violated and identify the people responsible for bypassing the norms.  

But at the same time, media organisations, especially the ones operating from Western countries, should abstain from exploiting a calamity of this scale for mere political opportunism. 

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

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Source: TRT World