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Middle East Team Dispatch

Turkey's Road to Recovery
February 23, 2000

The devastating earthquake that shook Turkey on August 17, 1999, killed some 18,000 people in the areas of Yalova, Izmit, Golcuk and Adapazari. In just 45 seconds, 60,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged; 40,000 people perished or are now considered missing and 20,000 people found themselves homeless. And as if that wasn't enough, on November 12th a second major quake took the lives of another 800 people in the nearby areas of Bolu and Duzce, leaving thousands injured and homeless, some for the second time.

Though the stories surrounding the earthquakes have disappeared from U.S. mainstream news, the difficult situation, for many, remains. The catastrophic events were some of the worst in Turkey's history. As Clive Calver, President of World Relief, stated when arriving in Turkey after the August earthquake, "This is no ordinary disaster. It's colossal... The sheer level of devastation is incredible. In ten years' time, Turkey will still be recovering from [those] 45 seconds."

While the most affected areas in Turkey are slowly trying to recover, the reality is that most of the survivors have limited options, and find themselves either sleeping out in the open, or in a tent. Because of the bleak circumstances in which the survivors exist, the Turkish government and church leaders asked World Relief to construct a camp of up to 1,000 tents and/or semi- permanent housing for families in the province around Izmit.

As of January 10, 2000, there were 151 families living in prefabricated units at the camp in Derince. Though these are not the kinds of homes the Turkish survivors are used to, they are a welcome change to being completely homeless and at the mercy of the elements. When work is complete, there should be a capacity for 270 families. Volunteers from local churches welcome and orient newcomers to the camp as well as determine which families have specialized needs. Northwest Medical Teams operates a medical clinic on the camp site. The camp in Derince is designed to care for survivors for several years until more permanent housing can be rebuilt.

Since the earthquakes numerous relief organizations and individuals have given much-needed aid to the Turkish people. Such a massive event, while victimizing thousands, reminds the world of just how fragile existence truly is. In the face of this devastation, the world reacted on a humanitarian level almost as impressive as nature's destruction.

Today, Turkey is still cleaning up the mess. Streets are lined with the remains of toppled buildings, and lots stand piled with concrete slabs and broken glass. For survivors, the long process of both mental and physical healing has begun. However, a return to normalcy is still many years away.

Relief organizations such as the Red Cross, World Relief, and Relief International still work to help victims of the quake. Snow and freezing temperatures are now a problem as winter moves in on the survivors. Relief agencies struggle to purchase floor pallets in which to lift tents off the cold, damp winter ground. Many tents are also being wrapped in plastic sheeting to keep them dry. According to Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) spokesperson Alexander Balient, the streets of Adapazari are extremely dirty, "This looks like some kind of remnant for a war zone." he said.

Vocabulary

bleak - without hope or encouragement
orient - to familiarize a person with new surroundings
humanitarian - helping to improve the happiness and welfare of mankind

This is the reality of what happened, and is still happening in Turkey today. Millions of dollars have been sent to ease the burden of life since the earthquakes, but in the end, not only money, but human caring, will help the survivors get past the horrible nightmares and rebuild their lives, one day at a time.

Check out the following websites for further information and to find out how you can help: www.turkeyresearch.com (children's writings, paintings and drawings about the earthquakes and photographs), www.worldrelief.org., or www.taaca.org.

Turkey Earthquake Photo Gallery

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