At the time of publication, the death toll reached 5,000 – 3,400 in Turkey and at least 1,600 in Syria – and severe weather conditions are hampering relief efforts.
The first 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit early Monday morning while people were sleeping at home, with an epicenter near Gaziantep, before another 7.5-magnitude quake hit Kahramanmaras province in the north.
According to the authorities, almost 6,000 buildings were destroyed in Turkey.
Ayşe Deniz Özkan, deputy director of global education and partnerships at Istanbul Aydin University, said the earthquake, which is among the largest ever recorded in Turkey, affected about 10 cities and relatively densely populated areas.
“The devastation is beyond words at the moment”
“The devastation is beyond words at the moment,” she told The PIE.
University campuses in Kahramanmaraş, Adana, Malatya, Adıyaman, Hatay, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Kilis and Osmaniye were adversely affected and closed, according to the Turkish Higher Education Council.
“There will be damage inspections and other announcements on when and how to return to education. Meanwhile, the semester break will be extended for some time in the cities of Antalya, Bingöl, Elazığ, Erzincan, Karaman, Kayseri, Konya, Mardin, Mersin, Niğde, Sivas, Tunceli, which are close to the earthquake zone,” she explained.
“Their facilities and dormitories will be used for emergency housing. University hospitals will be strengthened and used to their maximum capacity.”
Partnerships with universities around the world will be vital to any rebuilding, she appealed.
Ceren Genc, who used to live in Gaziantep while working for the Dutch NGO Spark, said she had lost a colleague from a partner university.
“It’s sad. And it’s huge,” she told The PIE. “People are dying in the cold, if not from a collapsed building. Children and people with bare feet because the earthquake hit when people are in bed and feel safe at home.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 45 countries had offered support, according to the BBC. Countries such as Greece, Israel, Russia, Poland, Australia and many others have pledged financial support as well as donating rescuers and dogs.
“The disaster is so new that we are now trying to do search and rescue and get immediate help. After that, the focus will shift to providing shelter, temporary housing, etc.,” continued Özkan.
“Eventually getting back to normal with services, education and finally rebuilding. It lasts for months and years. However, the news cycle is constantly changing and you won’t hear about an earthquake in Turkey for about a week.
“I want to encourage universities around the world to form long-term partnerships with universities in the area to help them rebuild their infrastructure and support them over the next few years.
“At this stage of the disaster, the task is so huge that state agencies are at capacity, so you can contribute to the government’s efforts (your own or Turkey’s). Ultimately, partnerships between universities, non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors will be important for rebuilding.”
Non-governmental search and rescue organization, AKUT
Turkish Voluntary Network, Ahbap
Kaplan Fund for Turkey and Syria Earthquake Support for Oxfam