|Earthquakes & Natural
"And there shall be ... earthquakes..." (Mat 24:7)
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- The Big Shake-up
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ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Turkish officials on Tuesday were calling it "the disaster of the century," as they struggle to bury the nation's earthquake dead, amid a shortage of tools for dealing with tragedy on a colossal scale.
Government officials broadcast appeals for bulldozers, body bags and tents, as they attempted to clear away the rubble from last week's 7.4-magnitude earthquake, which left more than 14,000 people dead and 200,000 homeless.
As many international rescue teams began to depart, amid dwindling hope of finding more survivors beneath the rubble, health specialists turned their attention to the concern over disease.
Even as new stories of survival emerged, however, Turkey put in a request that underscored the tragedy: The government has asked the United Nations to help it find 45,000 body bags, said Sergio Piazzi, of the U.N. Humanitarian Affairs office in Geneva.
"We are shifting from the search and rescue phase to the acute emergency phase," Piazzi said. "But still we have hope to find some individuals alive."
A military commander said troops were focusing on setting up tent cities with proper sanitation to guard against disease. Soldiers scattered tons of lime over wrecked buildings and around tents in Golcuk, close to the quake's epicenter.
"To a large extent, search and rescue operations have now finished," said Gen. Hayri Kivrikoglu.
Minister warns of acid rain
The onset of rain overnight made life more miserable for searchers and the 200,000 people left homeless in Turkey's densely populated northwest by the country's worst earthquake in 60 years. Turkey's health minister warned Monday of a new danger -- acid rain from skies polluted by emissions from a raging blaze at Turkey's largest refinery, in Izmit.
Health Minister Osman Durmus -- who has been blasted for insensitivity in the Turkish press -- said Monday that Golcuk may be evacuated due to the threat of acid rain. He said poisonous particles were emitted during the refinery fire, which lasted five days.
DIVERS peered through the churning waters of the Sea of Marmara yesterday at hundreds of victims lying trapped inside blocks of flats and cafés that were sucked into the sea when the town was engulfed by a tidal wave.
Relatives stand at the water's edge, waiting for divers to emerge carrying some artifact that might provide a clue to where their missing relatives are. Fishing boats bumped across the choppy seas yesterday, salvaging what they could of these lost lives.
The waterfront at Golcuk has been chewed away along a 200-metre stretch. Residents point to where the coastline used to be; in some parts that is now 30 metres out to sea. The tops of palm trees and lampposts are visible just beneath the surface, giving an idea how deep the waters have closed in around this naval town.
There is now an underwater promenade. Cem Gurel, a councilor, rowed his boat over what used to be a popular walkway: "It's like our Atlantis. Part of our town has been taken by the sea, which will never give it back."
On Golcuk's new shoreline is a miserable collection of shoes, torn clothes, a wallet and handbags. Families pick their way through this debris, hoping to find some memento. Osman Altug, a 19-year-old student, examines a belt and throws it back. His father, mother and younger brother are missing. He was with friends in a flat three floors above his family's basement flat. "I remember the building shaking, everything moving and it was very dark. I was falling. I could hear my friend shouting and then I was aware that there was cold water rushing around me. I fell into it and put my hand to my face. It tasted of salt, of the sea. We pushed our way to where we could see some lights and ended up swimming out."
The five-storey block had slid into the sea. The first three floors were already submerged. The top two slipped under the waves seconds later, Mr Altug said. Some survivors were trapped for hours in buildings until rescuers reached them by boat.
Witnesses said the cafés and street traders were busy that night as thousands stayed out late to get a respite from the extreme heat last Tuesday. This part of Golcuk was built on reclaimed land, creating an artificial lagoon, and doubts have been expressed about the stability of the foundations of the flats and cafés on the waterfront.
Any investigation into that will have to wait until Golcuk recovers its dead. Government ministers will not say how many drowned, because they claim they do not know. Their estimate is 150 but residents put the figure nearer 500. Some bodies have washed up along the shoreline but most remain in the water.
Killer heat waves, disastrous floods, and invasions of disease-carrying insects are likely to hit Britain and the rest of northern Europe over the next 100 years, experts warn. Climate warming and changes in rainfall patterns were expected to have a major impact on health in Europe, said researchers from a World Health Organization working group.
Pointing to a combination of climate change and changing socio-economic conditions, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is predicting a continuation of "super disasters."
In a report entitled "World Disasters Report 1999," the federation says 1998 marked the worst series of natural disasters on record. The group used Hurricane Mitch and an El Nińo-caused drought in Indonesia that resulted in horrible consequences but also cascaded into other problems.
For instance, the drought in Indonesia caused the rice crop in the region to fail, pushing up the cost of imported rice, greatly devaluing the local currency, leading to food riots in Jakarta while forest fires blanketed the area with thick smoke.
According to the report, 96 percent of all death in natural disasters occur in developing countries. "One billion people are living in the world's unplanned shanty towns and 40 of the 50 fastest growing cities are located in earthquake zones. Another 10 million people live under constant threat of floods," the report states.
"World Disasters Report 1999" also claims that last year natural disasters created more refugees than wars. Because of declining soil fertility, drought, flooding or deforestation some 25 million "environmental refugees" were driven from their homes.
President of the International Federation, Astrid Heiberg, says: "Everyone is aware of the environmental problems of global warming and deforestation on the one hand, and the societal problems of increasing poverty and growing shanty towns on the other. But when these two factors collide, you have a new scale of catastrophe. At the Red Cross and Crescent alone, we have a huge increase in the number of people needing our assistance due to floods and earthquakes. In the last six years, it has risen from less than half a million to more than 5 1/2 million."
In the Book of Revelation, the author writes that the final conflict between good and evil before the millennial age will take place amid "a great earthquake such as never had been since men were on the Earth."
So what is the possibility that a major earthquake will strike the Israeli town of Megiddo, the biblical site for Armageddon? It's not just possible--"It's certain," said geophysicist Amos Nur. "We just don't know when."
In an article in Biblical Archaeology Review, Nur, a geophysics professor at Stanford University in California, and Hagai Ron, of the Geophysical Institute of Israel, trace the history of earthquakes in and around Megiddo.
In their article, Nur and Ron write that Megiddo, located in the middle of a strategic trade route between Syria and Egypt, was the site of several important battles. The scientists say that Megiddo, surrounded by active faults that crisscross northern Israel, was also repeatedly damaged by earthquakes.
The last major earthquake to hit Palestine occurred in 1927, when hundreds were killed by a magnitude 6.3 quake centered near Jericho.
Nur said it is impossible to predict when another major earthquake will erupt near Megiddo: It could be as soon as next week or it could be hundreds of years away. Nur compared conditions there to those found along the San Andreas fault in California.
At least 27 people were killed and hundreds of others injured after a powerful earthquake followed by 50 aftershocks rocked southern Iran on Friday.
Search teams were working feverishly over the weekend to find dozens of people reported missing from the quakes.
The initial magnitude-6.4 temblor struck at 3:30 a.m. local time and was followed several minutes later by a strong aftershock measuring a magnitude of 5.2.
Most of the victims were buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings in several cities in the southern Fars Province.
Disaster Officials reported extensive damage in 25 communities surrounding Shiraz and Kazerun, where more than 800 homes were destroyed, and roads and schools damaged from quake-induced landslides.
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|Articles on this Page
Turkey calls it the disaster of century
Tidal wave's 'forgotten' victims
The Forecast--Heat Waves, Floods and Insect Plagues
Red Cross Predicting 'Super Disasters'
"A great earthquake such as never had been"
Iran Earthquake Kills 27
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