How do you respond to a 7.2 earthquake that happens approximately 780 miles away from you?
October 26, 2011
| Ken and Betty Frank
On Sunday Oct. 23, 2011 the area around Van and Ercis, Turkey, experienced a 7.2 earthquake and has experienced many aftershocks since then.
The death toll reached at least 459 by Tuesday. The number of people reported injured was 1,350. There have been 2,600 buildings damaged or destroyed, and 1,000 of those collapsed. It is widely believed that building codes all over Turkey have not been strictly enforced.
The earthquake zone is far from Istanbul where we live. It is near the Turkish border with Iran. Van is a city of at least 370,000 people. Ercis, Turkey has a population of around 77,000 people.
This week in Van, the government's response has been described as faster and more efficient, as compared to the earthquake in 1999. At that time, the government was completely unable to cope with the disasters. Today, distributing the aid is still difficult, especially outside the city of Van. More tents and prefabricated buildings are needed.
The city of Van has a crisis management center which centralizes the response to the disaster. We have used our contact with one of our graduates involved in disaster relief training to learn what is needed in the area now. One Great Hour of Sharing of the United Church of Christ, has given us a small grant to purchase baby diapers. The local shipping companies transport these items free of charge. Our contact will make certain the items get to the crisis center.
We worry about how migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Van are faring. Some of the people are very poor and live in the worst of the worst housing. We learned that the NGOs in Van that work with refugees have all moved into the UN Refugee building because their own buildings were damaged. At least people are there whose job it is to protect refugees.
As we write we are still in the rescue period after the earthquake. The recovery period will begin shortly.
Our schools are collecting toys and clothing for children. Four psycho-social support centers will be established as soon as possible to counsel children in the area during the recovery period. They will need books, toys, coloring books, play dough and art materials. Tents and prefabricated housing will also be needed.
Since the 1999 earthquakes in the Black Sea Region near Istanbul, the seismic codes have been strengthened and more strictly enforced. Buildings have been accessed and retrofitted. But the task is huge and the loss of life in the Van area shows how much more must be done.
Betty and Ken Frank
Mission Personnel Currently Serving in Turkey