I just returned from Turkey where the official death toll has now reached over 50,000 people. In reality however, those numbers are much higher, with some saying as high as 250,000 deaths. This sobering number became a reality as we drove through the streets of Antakya (The Biblical city of Antioch) and witnessed street after street of high-rise buildings that were completely flattened.
We attended a local church where we talked with a father of three children. He lost his daughter in the earthquake and had to dig through the rubble to rescue his two sons. Another person talked about a house that collapsed and is now nothing but a pile of ruble. “A family of 5 lived in that house,” he said, “they are still in there.”
This is the story everywhere. And as search and rescue ended and clean-up has begun, many bodies will never be recovered.
I was with a team to help build small temporary homes for people who had lost everything. As we traveled from site to site we were often slowed by lines of trucks slowly making their way up the mountains loaded with what was once someone’s house to dump it off the side of the mountain. The region is literally being transformed, as what once was a busy city is slowly, truck load by truck load, beginning to disappear and valleys are slowly filling in as load after load of concrete is dumped into them.
In the heart of Antakya, where high-rise buildings once were, there is now nothing but empty space.
Driving through the city at night gives an eery feeling; it is so dark and quiet, there are no lights in any houses. It is almost like a deserted ghost town. You feel like you might be in the middle of a horror movie. During the day, the constant sound of trucks and machinery haunts the air. Many streets are completely blocked while those that are open need to be navigated by driving around remains of buildings that have fallen onto the streets.
Everywhere you go, within hours of driving, you see the effects of this earthquake. Tent cities have sprung up everywhere, houses are fallen or are leaning against other buildings. Many of those that are standing have structural damage and will eventually be taken down. People are terrified and are afraid to sleep inside, even if their building is still standing. It will be years until the area recovers. Some are saying the entire city of Antakya will eventually be removed and rebuilt from the bottom up. In one location not far outside of Antakya, the earth was torn open and split an olive grove in two. The farmer is absolutely terrified and refuses to come back to his farm.
When a disaster of this magnitude hits, one is overwhelmed by where you even begin. It doesn’t feel like we did much, but for each family that received a house, a little seed of hope was sown.
Please pray for the people, please pray for the nation; they need help, they need hope, they need to know Jesus! If you would like to help, you can make a donation to our disaster relief fund.