Following the powerful earthquake, as the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions (KESK), we have set up crisis desks at the confederation and local branch levels. However, we have determined that humanitarian aid efforts have not started in many cities and districts hit by the earthquake. Failure to deliver the aid on time worsens the devastating destruction of the earthquake and winter conditions and causes an increase in the loss of life.
The KESK crisis desk held a press conference at 13.00 in the headquarters. KESK executives shared the information gathered through local crisis desks about what happened in the earthquake region with the public. In addition to the crisis desk members, several other KESK and its affiliates’ representatives attended the press conference. Mr. Mehmet Bozgeyik, KESK co-president, read the following press statement:
KESK Crisis Desk: Earthquake and Profit-Oriented Mentality Take Our Lives!
After the COVID-19 pandemic that may occur once in hundreds of years, we faced a powerful earthquake that may occur once in hundreds of years. No words can describe our sufferings. Having said that, if there’s one word we will not use, it’s that what we experience is destiny. It is certain whoever describes what happened as destiny that s/he is responsible for the increase in deaths and suffering and becomes a partner in crime.
Some say, “It is the day to talk about what needs to be done rather than gaps.” Although it is partially true, it is also a fact that if there are cities and districts with no rescuers and first responders for more than 10 hours, it would be inhumane not to refer to this problem. If there are cities and neighborhoods with no tents, no soup kitchens active, and basic needs still need to be met, we need to raise this issue.
Ministers should either make statements contrary to reality by saying, “There is no place we have not reached, there is no location without rescuers and teams,” or they must carry out activities to respond to the crisis.
In order not to keep you waiting any longer on this cold and challenging day, we, as KESK Crisis Desk, would like to quickly share some information gathered flowing from the cities hit by the earthquake:
We want to share some critical problems and needs in these cities:
- Our colleagues from the health and medical units underline that they need basic medical supplies and kits, such as plaster and sterile sponges. Unfortunately, citizens may suffer from many fractures in our people’s bodies when rescued from collapsed buildings and ruins. Therefore, these medical materials are the most basic materials that will save lives.
- There are public hospitals and private hospitals which were destroyed, in these cities, especially in Iskenderun and Hatay. Thus, those with serious medical problems, e.g., cancer, face treatment problems. In addition, there are severe problems with the supply of prescription medicine. These medicines can be obtained, providing that patients present their relevant prescriptions. Considering this fact, the Ministry of Health should quickly suspend the prescription requirement for these cities and provide medicine to citizens.
- Many volunteer health workers, including the members of our affiliate in the health and care sector- Trade Union of Employees in Public Health and Social Services (SES) – and the Turkish Medical Association have reached these cities through personal efforts. Furthermore, more colleagues are still on their way to these cities. Under the current challenges and difficulties in these cities, it is essential to remind that any volunteer health officer and other rescue teams should prepare their necessary equipment and get items they may need before they set off. It is because there needs to be a well-functioning system in these cities. Any existing facilities and capacity should be used for earthquake victims.
Another related problem is the need for coordination and positioning of volunteer health workers and rescue teams. We can conclude that there has been an absolute crisis and chaos.
Unfortunately, existing search and rescue equipment is less than enough in the cities hit by the earthquake; current search and rescue teams and first responders are already exhausted and need to do their jobs properly.
Under ordinary circumstances, search and rescue teams be deployed with necessary supplies and equipment using cargo planes. At the same time, our colleagues report that units and equipment are transferred separately to these cities. This problem indicates a need for coordination.
- Unfortunately, Disaster And Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) teams and rescuers and first responders have not arrived in many places, particularly Adıyaman, Elbistan, Pazarcık, İskenderun, Gölbaşı, Hatay, and Samandağ. Even if there are teams, the number of these teams is not enough to respond to the scale of the disaster. Everyone states that we compete against time, yet we also see a deadly delay and lack of coordination. We have experienced the devastating consequences of turning a deaf ear to warnings of scientists who have been crying for months that an earthquake is coming. The Turkish Red Crescent cannot respond to this powerful earthquake. People spent last night shivering in public areas. Adverse weather conditions worsen their conditions. Providing tents to citizens cannot be so difficult. What is the function of the Turkish Red Crescent if it cannot even give tents to citizens?
- Pro-government media outlets ask citizens to go to assembly points. However, there is no assembly point. The existing zoning and construction mentality has yet to leave any available assembly points. How many parks did this zoning and construction mentality keep public parks available? Under these conditions, it is impossible not to cry and shout. Citizens need help finding a place in the neighborhood where parks and assembly points are away from destroyed buildings. They have no choice but to spend their nights outside and try to keep themselves warm by lighting a fire in the neighborhoods of ruined buildings. Contractors’ greed and sole aim of making more money and profit cost the lives of tens of thousands of our people.
- Finding an official to address these problems and ask for help is also a severe problem. It is possible to have a responsible official whom we can reach even if we are at war. However, people cannot contact authorized crisis desks or officials in these cities.
- Millions of people have been trying to get news from their relatives and friends for 36 hours. There is power, so the phones’ batteries are dead. We face an administration mentality that still needs to solve the transportation of mobile charging vehicles and power banks.
- You can imagine tens of thousands of people without cars. Those who have cars soon run out of fuel. Those who reach fuel stations need help finding fuel in these stations, too. The fuel problem in these cities must be solved immediately.
KESK has submitted its request to the Ministry of Interior Affairs that we also want to join crisis desks in the Governors’ offices.
As the KESK Crisis Desk, we constantly communicate with the crisis desks established in earthquake zones. The key issue of our agenda is the earthquake in all sectors and branches.
Every KESK member, especially our health and care officers, firefighters, local government employees, teachers, and AFAD employee members, is involved in rescue operations as first responders or organizes solidarity initiatives.
We want to reiterate our determination to use our maximum capacity to serve our members and people in this period.
KESK strongly believes that we can overcome difficulties and suffer with solidarity. Therefore, KESK stands with its members, their families, and everyone. KESK will continue to stand with them.
KESK EARTHQUAKE CRISIS DESK