Haaretz Special Report: Turks Frustrated by Government's Earthquake Response

Comments come after Prime Minister Recip Tayyep Erdogan visited the earthquake-damaged area of Van on Monday, stating that his country would be able to contend with the disaster by itself.

The Turks are having a hard time believing official government reports that 279 have died as a result of Sunday’s earthquake.

One teacher from a town near Van, who arrived in the city in an attempt to find a family member who was trapped under building ruins said that it is “obvious that hundreds are still trapped, and that thousands are dead.”

Turkey quake - AP - 24.10.2011

Despite the relative calm, many residents are complaining over the fact that the rescue efforts are “not serious."

Dugan Yalma, who witnessed rescue workers attempting to pull people out of a collapsed building in the heart of Van, and who was unaware that he was speaking to an Israeli reporter, told Haaretz that “there are simply not enough professionals. “

"They work without careful handling. I do not understand why more international crews have not arrived. The Israelis have an excellent rescue team, why isn’t [Prime Minister] Erdogan allowing them to come?”

One rescue team worker that arrived in the region from Izmir in the early hours of the morning, admitted during his brief lunch break that his team was “not able to find one survivor” during their ten hour evacuation attempt.

The Turkish rescue teams are being aided by heavy equipment, but are lacking specialized equipment that could potentially open passageways into the rubble.

Hundreds of friends and family members gathered around one of the collapsed buildings. “Someone received a text message from his brother who is trapped in the building” said one of them, “but over 30 hours have passed since the earthquake and people are losing hope.”

The death toll caused by the forceful earthquake, measured to be 7.2 on the Richter scale, reached 270 by Monday. Another 1,300 people were injured, and thousands of buildings collapsed. Turkish officials suspect that the death toll is set to rise, as hundreds are still trapped under the rubble.

Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyep Erdogan visited the area on Monday, thanking the countries which offered to assist Turkey, but stated that his country would be able to contend with the disaster by itself.