With solely a bonfire for mild and heat on a bitter winter’s night time, an prolonged household sits at the roadside ready for a miracle.
It is not coming.
They have been right here for 9 days and nights however their family members haven’t been discovered.
This private grief is being performed out in the rubble of one in every of the most fascinating streets cash should purchase right here.
“That is one in every of the most luxurious residential areas in Gaziantep,” says musician Yunus Emre, whose cousin and his household of 4 are lacking. “The wealthiest dwell right here. These flats are offered for hundreds of thousands.”
However the value of the property on this metropolis meant nothing when the earthquake struck.
“I am simply indignant. I would like to deliver somebody to justice however I do not know who,” says the 28-year-old. For him, so many events are culpable in what isn’t just a nationwide tragedy however, with the collapse of so many buildings, a nationwide scandal.
“It begins with the contractor,” he explains.
“He makes use of low-quality constructing materials. Subsequent comes the certifying authority. They’ve the blood of people that died right here on their fingers.
“It is not proper to scapegoat the contractor. The ones who accredited this constructing are accountable along with the authorities and the state. They should not have signed off on this constructing challenge at all.”
The Ayşe Mehmet Polat house advanced is 24 years outdated. 4 of its six blocks collapsed whereas different buildings round it stood tall. Security issues had been raised by residents lengthy earlier than final week’s lethal tremors.
We got here to this web site as a result of we had heard that a person mentioned to be the constructing’s contractor had been arrested. He’ll later inform us via his lawyer he was doing nothing flawed and will bear no accountability.
We spend three days trying at what occurred right here on 6 February.
As we return to the advanced the subsequent morning, emergency companies reveal to us a surprising determine – 136 individuals are identified to have died right here as they slept.
At a petroleum station subsequent door, we ask if they’ve any CCTV footage of when the earthquakes struck. We’re given movies from 4 separate cameras which present the horror unfolding. First, the violent shaking of the lights, then seconds later, folks working for his or her lives earlier than, lastly, a thick cloud of smoke and dust enveloping all the things in its path.
The neighbouring house buildings collapsed in a matter of seconds.
As we depart the petrol station, we’re drawn to the pile of non-public possessions on the fringe of the forecourt. It’s a deeply upsetting museum of lives instantly extinguished – homework, dolls, cooking pans and household photographs. Scouring the heap, and sobbing inconsolably, is 65-year-old Emel Filik.
“Every part is gone,” she tells us.
She explains that her cousin had been sleeping in one in every of the 4 destroyed blocks, and no-one had taken accountability for retaining the constructing secure.
“When you begin to dwell in your flat, nothing occurs. No inspection. Earthquake insurance coverage and property insurance coverage do not work both. The municipality does not make checks. No such factor as monitoring.”
There had been issues about these apartments, she says, including that the head of the residents’ affiliation – a lady often called Selma – had even requested neighbours to come to a gathering to hear to her fears.
“Six months in the past, Selma advised us about the issues of the constructing. She mentioned ‘Expensive residents, our buildings would possibly collapse at the slightest of earthquakes. Let’s strengthen the pillars. For those who’re quick on cash, the municipality may assist us for a less expensive answer.’ She held a number of conferences. However nothing occurred.”
We discover a telephone quantity for Selma and he or she confirms she held conferences to categorical her fears.
However ought to residents actually have to pay to be secure in their very own houses? This was a query of structural integrity, not repainting partitions.
The head of the organisation representing architects in Turkey, Eyüp Muhçu, tells us the final accountability for ensuring buildings are secure rests with the Turkish authorities.
“The precedence of the central authorities was not to make the cities secure, however to implement some initiatives that have been solely deliberate for maximising income. Because of this, 65% of the present constructing inventory in Turkey is dangerous. And no measures have been applied relating to these dangerous buildings.”
With two residents having advised us there had been potential issues inside the blocks – we begin making an attempt to discover out if these chargeable for the constructing knew about it and whether or not they did something.
After we had first arrived at the block the earlier night time, a boy had come up to us briefly to say his dad had pulled seven folks from the rubble along with his naked fingers. It sounded a exceptional story, given the scale of the destruction we may see, however we did not low cost it.
And positive sufficient, once we hear others speaking about the bravery of a person known as Bahattin Aşan we determine to observe him down.
“I noticed the constructing twirling and crashing down. I got here right here working, it was darkish, raining, there was snow and I used to be the first responder,” he tells us.
Bahattin Aşan used to work as a safety guard at the housing advanced.
He reveals us a harrowing video he took in the smoking ruins, during which he is calling out to these trapped. Some folks reply.
“I rescued seven folks on my own. It was like the apocalypse. Even now as I am telling you this, I am nonetheless shaking,” he says.
However what about these supposed issues over the buildings’ security, I ask? Did he see this?
“In the automotive park, I witnessed the defects with my very own eyes. Once I touched the concrete columns it might crumble to dust in my fingers, as if it wasn’t concrete at all. Iron was rusting in the columns, the rainfall was damaging and corroded the iron.”
Once I ask Bahattin Aşan if he ever reported this, he insists it was apparent to the administration in addition to the residents.
“I used to inform a pal that in the event that they have been to give me a flat right here I would not take it. I mentioned it was as a result of I did not assume the columns have been stable and in an earthquake the constructing would collapse.”
However the man accused of being the contractor, Mehmet Akay, says the constructing complied with regulation at the time it was constructed. He claims that sewage and water works have been added to the property after building – and that this, or different work, could have broken the supporting columns.
What number of different safety guards and caretakers throughout Turkey had voiced related issues in a rustic precariously positioned at the crossroads of shifting tectonic plates?
The quick image that is rising on this Gaziantep neighbourhood shouldn’t be of a cover-up or conspiracy – however both indifference or inaction.
Everybody knew there was an issue, however no one did something.
For opposition MP Garo Paylan, from the HDP celebration, who we meet as he visits this web site, it’s indicative of legal negligence on an industrial scale in Turkish building and oversight.
“It is a crime. It is a sin.”
Mr Paylan accuses the authorities of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of failing to guarantee the security of recent buildings in addition to failing to strengthen older ones.
“The scientists have been shouting about it, this catastrophe is coming, however the authorities did nearly nothing. We warned the cities, we warned them to put together the rescue groups, however they did nothing and we dwell this disaster. They are saying that is future. No, it’s not. In civilised international locations these sorts of disasters occur however fewer folks die. However right here we have now tens of hundreds of individuals below the rubble.”
Mehmet Akay, the man whom authorities say was the constructing contractor for the Ayşe Mehmet Polat advanced, was arrested on Saturday 11 February – 5 days after the earthquakes. He was stopped at Istanbul Airport as he tried to depart the nation.
State prosecutors say he was the constructing contractor, however responding to questions put to him via his lawyer, Mr Akay claims he was the building co-ordinator, however not the contractor. He additionally rejects accusations that low cost constructing supplies have been used.
In Gaziantep, we ask the native authority, Şehitkamil Municipality, for a response. Spokesman Ahmet Aydın Sert says no complaints have been acquired about the advanced buildings, and subsequently no inspections have been made. “We went via the data and located no irregularities.”
President Erdogan has conceded that the emergency response to the catastrophe was gradual in locations, however has urged his folks not to hear to these whom he accuses of politicising a tragedy.
His authorities denies negligence and claims that greater than 98% of buildings that collapsed have been older – like the Ayşe Mehmet Polat advanced – and constructed earlier than the ruling celebration took workplace.
There are lots who would say each nation has an ethical – if not authorized – responsibility to defend its residents, irrespective of the age of their property.
And when Turks go to the polls in the summer time they may determine for themselves who can greatest guarantee their households are secure in their very own houses.
Further reporting by Naomi Scherbel-Ball, Doğu Eroğlu, Dilay Yalçin and Jake Horton
Comply with Nick Beake on Twitter