Quake-stricken Turks rush to attend AFAD’s rescue volunteer programs
Emre Eser – ISTANBUL
Applications to volunteer with the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) have soared after a series of powerful earthquakes, an official of the country’s disaster agency told daily Hürriyet.
Those who apply to AFAD’s three-tier volunteer programs are given free-of-charge indoor and outdoor courses on disaster concepts, first aid, search and rescue, firefighting, survival during floods and cooperation.
The broadcasts in the quake stricken Elazığ and Malatya provinces starting from the night of Jan. 24 showing rescue teams working hard to take out victims from the debris of the collapsed buildings have raised awareness of disaster management.
“Every earthquake has a similar effect on the fellow citizens and the number of our volunteers increases. We have seen many applications in the aftermath of the recent earthquake,” said Aslıhan Koçyiğit, the communications coordinator of AFAD’s volunteer program.
“The number of AFAD volunteers soared to 53,000 from 40,000 after the earthquake off Istanbul,” she said, referring to the 5.8-magnitude tremor that rocked the metropolis on Sept. 26, 2019.
Although the earthquake off the coast of Istanbul’s Silivri district did not cause any casualty or major damage, its intensity was enough to be a reminder of Turkey’s worst seismic disaster in 1999, when the Marmara earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 some 100 kilometers east of Istanbul killed at least 17,000 people and left 600,000 people homeless.
Since then, experts have been warning about another powerful earthquake in the Marmara Sea expected to occur on a fault line as close as eight kilometers to Istanbul’s shoreline.
More recently, a magnitude-4.7 earthquake centered nearly 23 kilometers off Silivri shook Istanbul again on Jan. 11.
Ten days later, a 5.4-magnitude earthquake took place in the Akhisar district of the western Manisa province. Four people were injured due to panic and some 15 old buildings were damaged, according to Manisa Governor Ahmet Deniz.
The seven-kilometer-deep shallow quake was felt by residents living in a large area including nearly all the western coast of Turkey, extending from Muğla province in the southwest to Istanbul which is located some 560 kilometers north.
Early in the following day, another moderate earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 rattled the capital Ankara’s industrial district of Akyurt, which is some 30 kilometers away from the city center.
With the recent deadly Elazığ earthquake, almost the entire population of Turkey, nearly 81 million, has felt tremors in the last four months.
“Now, we will reach the figure of 60,000 in a short while. As AFAD, we are targeting to have 200,000 volunteers until the end of this year. Even foreigners in the country are applying to become volunteers,” said Koçyiğit.