New Quake in Turkey
By Linda Unger*
November 10, 2011—After a second earthquake in just over two weeks struck eastern Turkey last night, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is responding with partners International Blue Crescent (IBC) and GlobalMedic.
Muzaffer Baca, vice president of IBC, said that some survivors of the first quake, on October 23, already had returned to the damaged city of Van and were living in their homes or hotels when the second quake struck at 9:23 last night (local time).
The 5.6-magnitude quake toppled buildings, including a six-story hotel and a children’s hospital, Baca reported. There were journalists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in the hotel, including, he said, the Turkish Red Crescent team in Van. “The hospital was accommodating about 100 children,” he said.
Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR executive for International Disaster Response, expressed UMCOR’s concern for the survivors of this new quake. “The people of eastern Turkey are in our prayers, and UMCOR stands ready to help in any we can,” she said.
Early news reports indicated that eight people had died and dozens more could be trapped underneath the rubble. Twenty-five buildings, including two hotels, were destroyed in last night’s quake, the reports said.
“People now are once again in the streets, fearful and looking for shelter,” Baca told UMCOR. “The temperature is -4 degrees Celsius (about 25 degrees Fahrenheit), and the electricity has been cut, so electrical heaters are not operating.”
Many of those who did not return to their homes have been enduring the frigid temperatures in tents and makeshift dwellings since the 7.2-magnitude quake occurred two weeks ago. That temblor killed 600 people, damaged or destroyed about 3,700 buildings, and heavily impacted Van and the villages that surround it.
UMCOR already was working with IBC after the October 23 earthquake, providing food, medicine, blankets, and other emergency needs to survivors, while also considering long-term recovery and rebuilding needs.
With this new emergency, UMCOR also will partner with GlobalMedic to provide winterized tents and a field hospital in Van.
The field hospital will be equipped and donated to an NGO called Doctors Worldwide, which will operate this facility. When the emergency passes in a few months, Doctors Worldwide will recover and clean the equipment and keep it on hand for future domestic responses in Turkey.
A Family’s Story
The Ozakac family of Ermisler village, on the outskirts of Van, typifies some of those needs in this area of Turkey where poverty is widespread. They lost their home in the earlier quake and since then, have been living in a tent and a single-room temporary shelter on Kasim Ozakac’s brother’s property.
Sukran, Kasim’s wife and mother of their three girls and two boys, has been ill and is now paralyzed. She is able to use only one of her hands and needs help to move about and to manage family chores such as cooking and laundry. She requires medication to arrest the further development of the illness.
When the Ozakacs’ home collapsed, the family considered themselves lucky because none of them was killed or hurt. But their plight became more serious, as they lost not only their home but all their possessions and resources for survival.
Like their mother, two of the children also have health issues that require medical attention, including surgery. The eldest child, Ferit, 13, is anxious to continue studying after having completed primary school. “This is my only chance to survive,” he told IBC, “but we have nothing.”
The Ozakacs’ need for livelihood generation, health care, and education are representative of the needs of the broader communities in Van and surrounding villages that have been impacted by two earthquakes in two weeks.
Linda Unger is UMCOR staff editor and senior writer. This story includes reporting from UMCOR partner International Blue Crescent.