Community mourns after earthquake; prepares relief effort

By Gus Bode

Students, staff and faculty said they are grieving in wake of Sunday’s earthquake in Turkey. The 7.2 magnitude quake caused severe damage to the eastern part of the country, most of which occurred outside the city of Van. Though the official death toll rises as rescue efforts continue, many publications have estimated at least 400 casualties and more than 1,350 injuries from the devastation.

Kemal Akkaya, an associate professor in computer science and faculty adviser of the Turkish Student Association, said he was distressed by the amount of youth affected by the disaster.

“When you look at the news, you see a lot of young people and kids suffering and being pulled from the wreckage,” Akkaya said. “Right now a lot of people are living in tents and under blankets, without food or water. It’s extremely sad.”


Akkaya said he grieves for the earthquake victims, because he experienced a similar instance firsthand. The professor was a victim of Turkey’s biggest earthquake in 1999, which struck the northwestern part of the country, including the capital of Ankara, where he lived at the time. The quake killed more than 17,000 people and left approximately half a million others homeless.

“Turkey is an earthquake country; almost every city is a part of a zone,” Akkaya said. “Each time we have something like this, we have a lot of discussion on building codes and making them better. Then, after a couple of months, they forget about it.”

Akkaya said he hopes the country’s attempt on entering the European Union will encourage Turkish officials to better enforce building codes, as regulating the codes is one facet of the union.

Carla Coppi, director of International Students and Scholars, said most Turkish students at the university come from the Istanbul and Ankara area, though a few students have transferred from the eastern part of the country.

Although she hasn’t yet heard of any students on campus who have had friends or family personally affected by the quake, she said she wishes the best for victims and their families.

“I hope that in times like this we look at earthquakes in other parts of the world that have had devastating impact on their population and their citizenry that their infrastructure can come back as soon as possible and that life can return to normal,” Coppi said.

Coppi said though she’s optimistic, she knows devastation of this magnitude can be irreparable. She said her experiences with past students during the wake of tragedies in Honduras, Haiti and Mexico have exposed her to the malevolence of natural disasters.


Mustafa Dagoglu, a senior from Addison studying automotive technology and president of the TSA, said he was devastated by Sunday’s news. Although Dagoglu is a native of Istanbul, which is on the Western side of the country, he said he is deeply concerned and feels a connection to those affected.

“Even though I don’t know the people and their not family or friends, I still grieve for them,” Dagoglu said. “This could happen anytime, any day to any country. Innocent people lost their life, lost their husbands, wives, sister, brothers. It doesn’t matter who it happens to; it’s still a sad situation that we don’t want to happen anywhere.”

Dagoglu has taken leadership in regards to the quake, speaking to local news station KFVS-12. He is currently developing a relief effort for the country in association with TSA. He said as members of the Turkish community in Carbondale, he and TSA members said they feel an obligation to the citizens of their home country.

“We’re Turkish; we share the same background as them,” Dagoglu said. “I think it affects us how much or how little we study it at the moment because we’re still trying to take all of it in.”