By Mahboob A. Khawaja
[When the Earth is shaken to her utmost convulsion. And the Earth throws up her burdens (from within) . And man cries (distressed) what is matter with her…… Al Quran: Zilzal-Convulsion, Chapter 99:1-3]
Reflections on the Aftermath of Earthquakes and Human Survival
The whole mankind is vulnerable to unpredictable staunch warnings of earthquakes and what it means to human challenging survival under most painful and catastrophic circumstances as seen across Southern Turkey and Northern Syria on February 6. Two earthquakes of 7.8 and 7.4 magnitudes hit the vastly populated 11 regions of Turkey and neighboring Syria that was already devastated by 12 years of raging war. Media reports speak of 5, 840 deaths and most buildings crippled in North Western Syria –Idlib and Aleppo regions. Given the on-going war situation in Syria, survivors were helpless and nowhere to go except taking shelter under the open sky. The tremors are part of the human culture and represent a vivid sense of unknown and massive natural forces of destruction impacting us all on this planet. Despite the scientific knowledge and advanced technology, it is difficult to predict the coming of an earthquake or to restrain its occurrence in real time.
AFAD, the Turkish Government agency reports of several thousand KM areas affected adversely in 11 provinces, more than 41,500 deaths, 110,000 or more injuries and 50,000 or more buildings destroyed perhaps millions displaced by the terrible events. Antakya, the famous historical hub of ancient temples and mosques was wiped out in seconds. President Erdogan’s Government, its ministers and NGO’s and international aid teams were quick to respond and organized to offer humanitarian help to the survivors and undertake search and rescue groups in most of the affected regions. Gaziantep, Kharamanaras and Hatay had reportedly significantly more casualties and socio-economic damages than other regions.
At times, crises facilitate opportunities for the secret web of global harmony and need for collaborative relationship and reasoned dialogue. The international response to tragic earthquakes and its aftermath signal the natural bonds of seamless human unanimity and solidarity to help the victims and safeguard preservation of human dignity and life. We, the humanity require protection and systematic safeguards against all unknown catastrophic events and their impacts. The global response to a natural disaster was spontaneous and immediate without any political complacency. It is reported that 100 or more countries offered urgent help to Turkey and sent special trained rescue teams to conduct search and pull victims alive out of the rubbles. The focus was to help the survivors in emergency with foods, medicine, shelter and humanitarian care necessary in situation of extreme difficulty and psychologically tormenting pains and anguish resulting from the earthquakes. The humanitarian passion of natural bonds could well be sighted when several experienced rescue teams were finding people alive and restoring trust and confidence in being one humanity responding to a call of help urgently needed in such a natural disaster.
It demonstrated an inward feeling of mankind to create their own space of human solidarity and relationship in moments of a crisis. This should go a long way for the victims of this tragedy in Turkey and Syria to realize a balancing act of faith and kindness to foresee the bonds of unity of mankind and universal spirit of help to all impacted by the earthquakes. One wonders, if the same spirit of human solidarity could be transformed into workable possibilities of peace and harmony and to resolve so many emerging conflicts and war raging across the world – more so in Ukraine, Kashmir, Palestine-Israel and above all the clash between the leaders and the superpowers being witnessed in daily media coverage.
Survivors in Search of Hope and Future-Making
The natural bonds of humanity invite irresistible impulse of necessity and the spirit of universal compassion to help those who have lost all possessions of life. Those accidentally displaced people or crushed by the tremors or injured by the ferrous power of the earthquakes desperately need help and moral and psychological support to regain confidence and viability of life under highly tense circumstances which cannot be described in words unless experienced by the victims. They are suffering from natural catastrophic events with enormous pains and heartbreaking injuries – yet to be defined, explained and listened to for human compassion, understanding and remedial treatment. While dealing with the aftermath of the first two quakes, two more tremors of 6.8 and 5. 4 magnitude were felt February 20, in Hatay and Kharamanaras regions already worst hit by the casualties. AFAD, the UNO and the WHO estimate indicate 26 million people could have been affected by the cycle of tremors. The situation of fear and painful suffering prevail all over the regions. Turkish Government and its agencies and global NGO’s have successfully managed the needs of people for shelters, foods, medical care and children wellbeing under challenging circumstances. The EU and UNO are planning international donor conferences in Brussels to raise funds for the reconstruction of necessary infrastructures across Turkey. The WHO reminds all concerned that the survivors urgently needed vital support provisions and essential basic necessities to maintain lifelines, otherwise: “We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster, if we don’t move with the same intention and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue side,”
We, the Mankind and the Living Earth
Verily God Knows All the hidden things Of the heavens and the earth; Verily He has full knowledge of that is in (men’s) hearts (The Quran: Chapter 35: 38)
The coming of earthquakes and other natural disasters are a staunch reminder to our vulnerability to rethink, change and accountability on earth. We cannot combat earthquakes or stop tornados or cyclones but we can take certain precautionary measures to safeguard our lives and habitats. The Earth is a living entity and is meant for us – the human beings. We, the People wonder who else except God created life, the Earth and the living Universe floating in space well balanced and functional since time immemorial. Who else other than God determined the Earth spinning of 1670 km per hour? Who else than God ordained it to orbit the sun at 107,000 km per hour? And who else than God made it to spin at 28,437 km per hour at the equator? (https://www.newscientist.com/question/fastearthspin/#ixzz7C8p37S9X). Be aware that earth average distance to the Sun is about 93 million miles (105 million km); the distance of Moon from Earth is currently 384,821 km equivalent to 0.002572 Astronomical Units and if the distance between the Earth-Sun or the Earth-moon were ever to change, there will be no sign of life or habitats left on Earth.
There are interwoven socio-economic, humanitarian and political sensitivities involved in any crisis situation deserving immediate response and actions. Realizing the nature of the wide range epic center of cataclysm in Turkey and Syria, many global leaders spoke of humanitarian help, peace and global unity. But they hardly comprehend the truth of its meaning. The unchallenging truth arising from the emerging disaster reinforces the need to establish an international emergency response planning center, well equipped with financial, material and human resources to act immediately to help the people across the world and avert future disasters. We the People of globe ask the global conscientious leaders to listen to voices of reason for peace and global harmony extending help to all those suffering from conflicts and natural disasters. At the edge of REASON, war is anti-human and anti-Nature.
[Dr. Mahboob A. Khawaja specializes in international affairs-global security, peace and conflict resolution and international affairs with keen interests in Islamic-Western comparative cultures and civilizations, and author of several publications including the latest: One Humanity and the Remaking of Global Peace, Security and Conflict Resolution, 2019.]