The death toll of the earthquake in Van, Turkey on Sunday has risen to over 460, as search-and-rescue teams continue to dig through collapsed apartment buildings, schools and houses.
The stories of survival have been miraculous and life-affirming. A two-week old infant girl was saved after being buried in rubble for eight hours. Three generations of one family were pulled out from under a house. Teenagers, teachers, pensioners and parents have all been rescued.
Additionally, Turkey has been able to set aside recent ethnic tensions for the sake of the rescue and recover process.
We did not discriminate between Turks, Kurds or Zaza people... We said that they are all our people, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated Tuesday.
But under the triumph there is tragedy, and there are still hundreds, possibly thousands of people still buried beneath the rubble, according to Turkey's Red Crescent.
At the moment, we don't have any other signs of life, rescuer Riza Birkan told The Associated Press in Ercis. We are concentrating on recovering bodies.
Earthquakes in Turkey are not uncommon, but the quake on Sunday was the worst since the 1999 ?zmit earthquake that killed more than 17,000 people and left 60,000 more homeless. Many of the people who died then were crushed when poorly built houses collapsed during the 7.6 magnitude tremor. If they had been built better, more people who have lived, and less would have been rendered homeless.
While earthquakes cannot be predicted, many of the increasingly high number of people who died after the earthquake on Sunday could have survived, if only Turkey had learned a lesson in 1999.
Turkey should have known better. The country gets hit by earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 or greater every couple of years, especially in the eastern region where the quake hit Sunday. Under the right conditions, an earthquake of that size doesn't have to be serious.
For some, the poor planning in Van and Ecris amounts to criminal negligence.
When we look at the wreckage, we see how the material used is of bad quality, Erdogan said. We see that people pay the price for concrete that virtually turned to sand, or for weakened concrete blocks on the ground floors. Municipalities, constructors and supervisors should now see that their negligence amounts to murder.
Despite all previous disasters, we see that the appeals were not heeded.
But Erdogan is not blameless.
In the first two days following the disaster, Erdogan and the Turkish government refused international aid from a dozen counties, including Greece, Israel and Armenia, countries that have had historically tense relationships with Turkey.
I am under the impression the Turks do not want our help, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 2 News on Monday. Right now [their answer] is negative but if they see they need more aid and don't have it, or if they rethink it, we have made the offer and remain prepared [to help].
Turkey now has accepted aid from Bulgaria, Azerbaijan and Iran, and is ready to accept aid from Israel, but it seems to be too little to late. With rescuers now searching for bodies instead of saving lives, it will never be known how many more people could have been pulled out of the rubble alive if Turkey had sought more early foreign aid.
After the ?zmit earthquake, an Israeli military team was able to rescue 12 people and locate 140 bodies. Compared to the total lives lost in ?zmit, 12 is a miniscule number, but even if one person were saved from death than the mission is successful.
Additionally, Turkey's efforts to accommodate the tens of thousands of people who lost their homes on Sunday have been notably insufficient. The Red Crescent was unable to provide the tents and temporary shelter needed and whole communities were forced to spend the night in the cold of the outdoors, huddled around fires.
There was a failure in the first 24 hours, but in such situations such shortcomings are normal, Erdogan said on Turkish television. There may not be sufficient equipment in depots at the start, but these have (now) been resolved with equipment from other depots.
Part of the aid now being accepted from Israel and other countries are a number of prefabricated houses and containers.
While no individual can be blamed for the damage and lives lost in the earthquake, Turkey needs to use the Van disaster to plan for future earthquakes. The country is crossed by multiple fault lines and sits on one of the world's most active seismic zones. There will be another large earthquake, and it will happen soon.
The tents need to be ready.