Last week's earthquake in Turkey's Bingol Province has many
people asking whether lessons from an earlier seismic disaster were
fully learned. The recent quake, which registered a magnitude 6.4,
killed more than 160 people and injured at least 1,000. At least 80
students - mostly the sons and daughters of poor Kurdish farmers -
were killed when a public-school dormitory collapsed.
On the one hand, the scenes from Bingol were completely different
from the aftermath of the massive 1999 tremors, which struck near
the western city of Adapazari. Rescue and relief crews arrived in
Bingol almost immediately, while the Adapazari disaster was notable
for the slow and poorly coordinated arrival of rescue workers. On
the other hand, the images of rescue workers digging for survivors
in the rubble of the totally collapsed and apparently poorly
constructed dormitory - built in 2000 - seemed painfully familiar.
Rescue and relief workers said Turkey's emergency preparedness
has changed dramatically in the last four years. According to Saydun
Goksen, general secretary of the Turkish Search and Rescue Society,
today there are some 60 nongovernmental search-and-rescue
organizations working in Turkey, up from only one in 1999.
"The big difference this time, due to the fact of having so many
NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], was a flood to Bingol of
search-and-rescue organizations," says Mr. Goksen, whose group sent
45 rescuers with sophisticated imaging and sound-detection devices
to the stricken area.
Experts in the field estimate that beyond search-and-rescue
groups there are now more than 500 NGOs working on earthquake-
related projects in Turkey, from direct assistance for victims to
earthquake safety education.
Demet Gural, executive director of the Human Resources
Development Foundation, an Istanbul-based group providing assistance
in areas hit by the 1999 earthquakes, says that event was a
watershed moment for Turkish NGOs, bringing them both increased
respect and financial support.
"Previously, many of the NGOs were seen as little associations
that really were only working against the state," says Mr. Gural.
"That was the general perception in the society, but now people
realize that there is a lot of work that NGOs can do, that they are
not an alterative public sector but that they can do things faster
and implement things in a smoother way."
In Adapazari, Mehmet Duman, general secretary of the municipality
that was devastated by the 1999 quakes, will be moving into new,
quake-resistant offices. Since the tremors, which registered a
magnitude of 7.4 and killed more than 18,000 people, Mr. Duman and
his colleagues have been working out of a cluster of temporary,
prefabricated offices that sit in the shadow of the old seven-story
municipality building, now condemned. …