Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) responders are working to assist survivors and reach people trapped in the rubble following the 7.2 earthquake that hit the eastern Turkish province of Van on Sunday. The government has confirmed that 217 people have been killed but there are fears that this number may increase. Current estimates say 1,090 people have been injured and hundreds more are missing.
The quake’s epicentre was below the village of Tabanli, in the eastern city of Van. Red Crescent works are focused on search and rescue efforts, but are also helping to support the immediate needs of those left homeless by the quake.
Over 6,000 tents and 11,000 blankets and stoves were distributed, as well as food and clean water. The organzation has established disaster management centres in the mountainous and isolated region.
Witnesses say local people used their bare hands and torchlight to shift the rubble in a desperate attempt to reach survivors overnight.
The TRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are monitoring the situation closely and mobilizing resources to support. The government response includes 1,275 search and rescue personnel, 174 vehicles, 290 health officials, 43 ambulances, and six air ambulances which are on duty in the affected area.
It is the most powerful earthquake to hit Turkey in over a decade, as powerful as the quake which hit Haiti in January 2010.
The TRC established its Crisis Management Desk immediately, alerting regional and local disaster management centres in Northern and Southern Anatolia (Erzerum and Elazig), Eastern Anatolia (Mus) and Adana in the Mediterranean region. Staff from the Erzurum regional disaster management centre were deployed at 2.30pm local time.
110 TRC disaster specialists from all over Turkey, together with 37 vehicles, were sent to the region.
Information is being collected through TRC, district governorates, gendarmerie commands and security departments, and communicated to the disaster management centres. All resources of TRC have been placed at the disposal of the operation by the TRC Director General.
To date the following relief aid has been mobilised and is on its way or already in place: tents (6,377), blankets (16,888), food parcels (1,064), ready-to-eat meals (500), kitchen sets (1,719), heaters (3,812), bread loaves (13,075), sleeping bags (425), ovens (10), mobile bakery (1), body bags (1,000), latrines (9), and sandwiches (14,000).
Tent camps have been established for those whose homes have been destroyed or who are afraid to stay inside due to the many strong aftershocks. U.S. scientists recorded eight aftershocks within three hours of the quake, including two with a magnitude of 5.6. Over 100 have been reported overnight. Temperatures are close to freezing at night-time which makes survival times shorter for those trapped and increased the harshness of conditions for survivors and those involved in the rescue.
The area is both remote and mountainous. Ercis, a city of 75,000 close to the Iranian border, was the hardest hit. It lies on the Ercis Fault in one of Turkey's most earthquake-prone zones. Van, 55 miles (90 kilometres) to the south, also suffered substantial damage. As many as 80 buildings collapsed in Ercis and ten buildings collapsed in Van, the Turkish Red Crescent said.
The quake was also felt in Armenia and Iran, and caused widespread panic. Turkey has not appealed for international aid but the Iranian Red Crescent has dispatched 65 people, 12 ambulances, relief items (blankets, tents, etc.) and a medical team to the region.
The TRC is one of the largest disaster response organisations in Europe and has prepared extensively for large earthquakes.