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Quake Swallows Wife, Daughter, Hope

August 19, 1999

GOLCUK, Turkey (AP) _ While her brothers and nephews frantically pulled chunks of concrete and household items from the pile of rubble, Hacer Akdeniz called out for help.

But that was on Tuesday, and since then, her voice has been silent.

``She sounded tired and afraid,″ Akdeniz’s brother, Ercan, said Wednesday. ``Now there are no voices anymore.″

The family fears what they will find when the debris is finally cleared. Hacer and her 14-year-old daughter Anil were trapped when the support beams of their apartment collapsed in the country’s deadliest earthquake in decades.

Five floors came crashing down on their first-floor apartment.

Rescue workers and families throughout western Turkey have been clearing debris from thousands of homes destroyed or damaged in Tuesday’s earthquake, which killed thousands of people.

Ambulances, helicopters and cranes have rushed to the scene of the temblor that ravaged the country’s industrial heartland.

Homes and factories can be rebuilt. But the quake tore into families and left holes that can never be repaired: wives, fathers, children lost when the earth shuddered violently.

In many areas _ such as Golcuk, a town of 60,000 a few miles from the temblor’s epicenter _ desperate families couldn’t wait for relief crews. They grabbed shovels and picks and began pulling at the wreckage.

Even among the chaos, there are attempts at recreating some domestic comforts. Families cooked on the streets with pots and pans and put up blankets for some type of roof.

Hope sometimes survives _ no matter how tenuous.

A few blocks from the Akdeniz’s apartment building, two soldiers tried to crawl between the collapsed floor of a home to rescue a 3 1/2-month-old baby trapped between two dead relatives. But the building quivered and the soldiers left, fearing the building would fall on them. As night fell, no one dared make the attempt again.

About half a dozen of Hacer Akdeniz’s relatives crawled atop the wreckage of their apartment building and began pulling away remnants of the family’s life: kitchen tiles, boxes of detergent and a gold and black clock frozen at 2:55. The clock must have been running slow _ the quake hit just after 3 a.m.

``I believe she’s alive,″ said Ercan, a short, scruffy man who had a filthy, bloody bandage wrapped around his left hand. Earlier ``we heard her begging for help, and we heard other noises.″

But the site was silent Wednesday and a stone-faced Ertas, Hacer’s husband, came to believe he has little hope of ever seeing his wife and daughter alive.

Ertas was sleeping in a room with his 19-year-old son, Erhan, when the earthquake struck.

``We heard a noise from the basement,″ Ertas said. ``Then the building collapsed.″

Bits of plaster rained down, leaving large bruises on Ertas’ arms and shoulders.

Erhan crawled through a hole in the wreckage and reached down to pull out his father. Hacer and Anil were sleeping in the main bedroom and were trapped.

``We want to hope that this is just a dream,″ Ercan said.

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