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Turkish survivors are focus of urgent relief

BY SUSAN KIM | WASHINGTON | August 19, 1999

WASHINGTON (Aug. 19, 1999) -- Even though a constant stream relief teams

and supplies is arriving in Turkey, chaos still reigns. With an

ever-rising death toll, diminishing hopes for digging out survivors,

raging fires, and a torrent of coastal flooding, the country has

become the focus of a global relief effort.

U.S.-based and other relief organizations are still concentrating on

meeting urgent human needs -- medical care, water, food, and shelter

- as well as sending trained search-and-rescue and medical teams.

Action by Churches Together (ACT), in consultation with the Middle

East Council of Churches (MECC), has issued an initial emergency

response alert, and already ACT partners are stating that monetary

donations are the best way for individuals to help.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance sent $100,000 Wednesday

for the immediate purchase of tents, medical supplies,

lanterns, food, and other humanitarian relief items.

Church World Service (CWS) is anticipating an initial

response of $250,000 to meet emergency needs. "After

further assessment, we will be determining a long-term

response as well," said Donna Derr, acting director for

CWS's emergency response program.

"The need for both immediate relief assistance and

long-term recovery aid is enormous and urgent," added

Johnny Wray, who coordinates a Week of Compassion giving

program through the Christian Church (Disciples of


Emergency professionals and residents alike continued to search for

people who were buried alive, removed the dead from the rubble, and

tried to attend to more than 25,000 injured people. Overflowing

hospitals and ambulances stuck on impassable roads have led to many

being treated by medical teams at field hospitals on roadsides and


The earthquake struck before dawn, collapsing apartment buildings,

hotels, and homes, crushing people as they slept. Towns are full of

panicked people are still digging through rubble by hand in search of

loved ones.

The earthquake measured up to 7.4 on the Richter scale, and was the

world's strongest in some 20 years. The United States Agency for

International Development (USAID) responded within hours of the

disaster by sending a 70-person search-and-rescue team from a

Fairfax, Va.-based fire department, five locator dogs, and a second

eight-person team to assist with coordinating response.

Immediately following the earthquake, volunteers from Adventist

Development and Relief Relief Agency (ADRA) in Turkey distributed

food and clothing to survivors in Istanbul. The supplies were being

stored at a warehouse in Istanbul for a relief program for Iraqi

refugees living in Turkey.

Epidemiologists and water sanitation experts have also been deployed

to help control the onset of disease. The International Red Cross is

also assisting with emergency response, and the U.S. has provided

$25,000 to the Turkish Red Crescent Society to help meet immediate

needs as well.

Many other response organizations are still locating Turkish-based

partners in order to accurately assess both damages and needs. Some

U.S.-based relief and faith-based organizations don't have field

staff in Turkey because their work commonly focuses on less developed


"That factor makes planning an appropriate response a bit more

complex," said Jacob Kramer, a relief team member for the Christian

Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). "That means we will have to

research the most effective context for our response."

Muslim organizations are also mobilizing to collect donations,

including the World Council of Muslim Women Foundation, while the

World Bank is also discussing an aid package.

Medical services and supplies are among the most dire needs right

now. Michigan-based International Aid has prepared three 40-foot sea

containers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals for a shipment to

Turkey which will leave within two days.

"Thousands of families have lost their homes and belongings," said

Dr. Milton Amayun, vice president of international programs for

International Aid. "We will respond quickly with medical help and

other items for survivors to restart their lives."

Other response teams include skilled paramedics, welders, mechanics

and firefighters with equipment such as thermal imaging cameras,

videoprobes, lighting and cutting tools.

Another urgent need is water distribution. Catholic Relief Services,

working with local Turkish partners, has ordered 15 metric tons of

water for survivors.

Fire fighters and equipment are also being transported from across

the globe to fight a fire at Turkey's largest oil refinery. The

earthquake hit about 55 miles east of Turkey's largest city,

Istanbul. But the hardest-hit city was Izmit, an industrial town in

which the refinery is located. The entire area was evacuated, and

aircraft are still dropping chemical extinguishers on the area.

Firefighters can't use pumps to bring water to the site because

electricity is down in the region, and they fear that the fire could

ignite a nearby fertilizer plant with 8,000 tons of flammable ammonia.

Turkey's main naval base also suffered extensive damage, with many

Turkish navy personnel believed dead. Throughout the region, bodies

are overflowing morgues and refrigerated trucks and warehouses. As

many as 10,000 people could still be trapped, according to reports by

the Turkish government.

Turkish newspapers are blaming the generally poor construction of

many buildings for the large loss of life. If people return to their

homes before stability has been checked, more deaths and injuries

could result. Nearly half of Turkey's population lives in the area

affected by the quake.

Natural gas distribution has been halted in some affected areas to

avoid leakage or fires in damaged buildings. The shock of the quake

has also caused flooding in seaside towns.

Thousands are sleeping outside, afraid of aftershocks, building

collapses, or explosions from ruptured gas lines and electrical

cables. Tent cities are stretched end-to-end throughout western

Turkey. More than 300 aftershocks have been recorded.

The worst earthquake in Turkish history killed an estimated 33,000

people in the eastern province of Erzincan in 1939. Damage for this

week's quake is expected to run into billions of dollars.

Updated August 19, 1999

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