Armenian Community Weathers Quake Aftermath

ISTANBUL (Lraper–Reuters)–The Turkish-Armenian community continued to weather the disaster following Monday’s devastating earthquake–measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale–which hit Istanbul. The death toll has been estimated at 7,000–with more than 20,000 injured.

Archbishop Nercess Pozapalian–the Catholicosal Locum Tenens issued a statement Thursday urging the Armenian nation to turn a helping hands to the needs of the Armenian community in Turkey.

Many Armenia’s left Istanbul for Cinarcik–a summer resort near the earthquake’s epicenter in Izmit–in order to look for family members and relatives who had gone there to spend the hottest days of the summer season. Many were anxious since there were no telephone lines available following the quake.

The courtyard in front of the Patriarchate–the large church yards of the Armenian churches in Ferikoy and Samatya were opened to the public last night. The Church served fruit and tea to the crowds who refused to return home amid nearly 300 aftershocks. Likewise–highway medians–city parks and empty lots were turned into makeshift tent cities.

To the southeast of Istanbul–the devastation was near total in some places. In Yesilkoy–where there is a sizeable Armenian community–numerous houses and apartment buildings were seriously damaged. Most of the Armenian medical specialists have been asked by the Health Ministry to serve in state hospitals–while the Armenian Hospital continues to admit earthquake victims for treatment–free of charge–said the Chief Surgeon–Dr. Arman Chakirian. His Beatitude Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II of Istanbul will have a meeting with the hospital board tomorrow to examine short-term immediate needs. The Patriarch has also called other local churches for a consultation in the Armenian Patriarchate tomorrow afternoon in order to seek ways of cooperating for an ecumenical emergency project.

The Patriarch on Wednesday visited the larger Armenian churches in Kumkapi–Samatya–Beyoglu and Ferikoy to see for himself the damages caused by the earthquake. Particularly dangerous cracks appeared on the belfries of the Patriarchal Church and of St. George Church in Samatya. The roofs of the primary schools of both parishes needed immediate renovation before schools begin in September. A group of architects and engineers have informed the Religious Council today that the preliminary cost of the renovation of the Patriarchate itself would be around $800,000.

The Patriarch issued an encyclical this morning expressing his profound sympathy for the families of the dead–giving spiritual encouragement on the other hand for the injured and the homeless. He asked his community to contribute to the fund-raising campaigns opened in various official banks in order to extend a helping hand to the victims. He revealed that the Patriarchate which was itself going through a severe financial crisis this year–nevertheless had already contributed $ 7,000 to the aid campaign. He reminded the members of his community that it was in times of crisis like this one that we were particularly called to live out the virtues of fraternal love–solidarity and charity–bearing witness to our Lord and Savior–Jesus Christ. Help must be given to all who are in need–without ethnic or religious discrimination–he said.

A prayer service in memory of those who have lost their lives in the earthquake will be held in the Armenian Patriarchal Church on Saturday.

Meanwhile–the Turkish government ordered more than two million people to leave their homes on Thursday after a warning from the country’s earthquake chief of a possible repeat of Tuesday’s disaster in which nearly 7,000 people have died.

Orhan Tasanlar–governor of the country’s textile capital Bursa–told residents in his province of two million people to spend the night outdoors.

"Our citizens have been warned to spend the night outside against any possibility of an earthquake," said a spokesman for the province some 140 miles south of Istanbul.

Two mild aftershocks in the space of two hours on Thursday prompted the chief of Turkey’s main earthquake observatory–Mehmet Ali Isikara to warn of "unusual" seismic activity.

"This could or could not create a large earthquake," Isikara told the semi-official Anatolian news agency.

"I generally choose my words very carefully but this time I was also discomfited. Let’s spend the next 24 hours in the earthquake zone outside," he said.

He said tremors had been moving towards Bursa along the lower section of the north Anatolian fault line. Tuesday’s quake–measuring 7.4 on the open-ended Richter scale–traveled the upper section.

Rescuers have been trying frantically to save the thousands of Turks trapped in the rubble of their homes since Tuesday’s earthquake rocked the industrial northwest while most lay asleep.

"Apart from us here–everyone is probably in the streets at the moment," the Bursa spokesman told Reuters. His city was shaken by Tuesday’s quake but suffered little damage.

Bursa–Turkey’s fifth biggest province–is home to scores of leading industrial plants. Eleven of the companies listed on the Istanbul stock exchange–including the Turkish subsidiaries of Bosch and Siemens–have manufacturing plants in the province.

The world sent rescue teams–sniffer dogs and money to try to help Turkey pull out of its deadliest earthquake since one in 1939 killed nearly 33,000 people.

Officials said more than 80 planes had arrived by Thursday–carrying around 2,000 rescuers and relief aid–while the official death toll appeared certain to climb.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said the International Monetary Fund would give Turkey $325 million to assist with relief for the seven provinces stricken by the earthquake.

In Golcuk–a town that symbolized the devastation that has racked the region–the stench of death was everywhere.

The prime minister–who had described the refinery fire as the worst danger emerging from Tuesday’s earthquake–said it was under control. Officials in Ankara predicted it could burn itself out in 48 hours.

Hundreds–perhaps thousands–remained trapped under masonry as hopes faded.

The bodies of the dead had to be passed by in the search for the living while authorities struggled to cope with the number of unclaimed bodies.

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