More than 100 hours have passed since the earthquake deeply shook society and hit ten cities. According to the latest information from the public authorities, 31.643 citizens lost their lives and more than 70.000 injured in this devastating earthquake.
Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions (KESK) offers condolences to the families that lost their members and relatives and wishes a speedy, full recovery to injured citizens. We feel the pain and destruction in our hearts.
Despite more than 100 hours, thousands of citizens are still in ruins waiting to be rescued from destroyed houses. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of earthquake victims are waiting to receive basic needs such as tents, blankets, water, and food. However, the local KESK crisis desks and KESK members underline that most of these ten cities still need more coordination and plans. It is easy to observe that there is a need for more efficient coordination in all parts of these cities.
Following the earthquakes, KESK set up the Crisis Desk at the confederation and local levels on the first day. Our teams and members launched solidarity initiatives across the country and were involved in search and rescue activities and collecting and distributing humanitarian aid in all these locations.
Given that the earthquakes heavily affected our branch offices and members and their family members in ten cities, there are difficulties in setting up crisis desks with these colleagues. Due to interruptions in communication services, we do not have continuous and efficient contact with some of our colleagues. In addition to existing challenges, the Government decided to restrict social media platforms across the country. Consequently, the level of communication deteriorated, and our members faced challenging conditions in these locations.
KESK delegations consisting of our affiliates’ executive committee members and board members arrived in the earthquake area on Tuesday. These delegations began collecting inputs to determine the urgent needs and share them with the crisis desk at the confederation level to achieve coordination and secure delivery of necessary goods and stuff to victims.
Based on the information from the KESK delegations and our crisis desks in these cities, we can say that almost none of the needs and actions we raised in our first press conference have been met by the relevant public authorities. Moreover, lack of coordination continues and heavily affects these cities hit by the powerful earthquake.
According to our delegations and crisis desks:
- Despite more than 100 hours, rescue teams have not yet arrived in many places. Equipment, tools and devices (such as thermal cameras, cranes, and rotary hammer drills) that have essential functions in search and rescue activities have yet to be provided to teams. These equipment, tools, and devices are necessary to locate bodies and alive citizens under ruins.
- The relevant public institutions have not met the need for tents. Despite freezing weather and rain in some cities, most citizens, especially those living in the villages, spent their first few nights outside.
- There is still a problem with access to fuel oil. Thus, those who spend nights in their cars and want to leave the earthquake cities are in despair.
- The number of toilets in tent and earthquake areas is insufficient. Unless the number of mobile bathrooms is increased urgently, the risk of threats to public health and epidemic will occur and grow in the coming days.
- Due to the lack of health supplies and equipment, there are significant problems in the interventions of the citizens saved from ruins. Many hospitals are either destroyed or unsafe. Field hospitals are not ready to provide health services to the victims.
- Search and rescue teams, first responders, emergency, vital aid, and supplies, particularly blankets, food, and tents, have yet to be delivered to villages.
- There are problems such as identification of the bodies removed from the wreckage, insufficient forensic staff, and inability to establish mobile cold storage.
- There are still vulnerabilities in the protection of children saved from ruins. KESK members and local crisis desks recommend that authorities follow standard procedures for lost children. This recommendation has raised awareness about these kids.
- There are inequalities in health services, search, rescue services, and support in these cities. For example, our colleagues informed us that there is almost no medical equipment in the Samandag State Hospital.
The Ministry of Health assigned health officers to these cities. However, there are still problems in establishing an efficient working environment and organizational/administrative issues. The KESK local crisis unit in Hatay reported that health officers work in the damaged building of the Mustafa Kemal University in Hatay. Healthcare workers have concerns about the resilience of hospital buildings in other cities. Our colleagues also state that healthcare workers in different locations were exhausted because of the heavy workload of health services in these places. In this respect, the Ministry should assign new and more health officers to these surrounding cities.
Furthermore, these health officers lack adequate accommodation facilities, heating, and nutrition. They do not even have enough food. All these factors worsen their working conditions which are already highly challenging. The KESK Crisis Desk met with the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) Directorate General. We asked AFAD to provide a detailed needs analysis to KESK so that KESK members can deliver the necessary materials and goods to the correct location. It will improve the efficiency of our solidarity initiatives. AFAD authorities said that they would get back to us about this issue. However, there has been no response from AFAD to the KESK Central Crisis Desk until now.
Electricity, water, and natural gas problems in cities have been solved to a limited extent, even in urban centers. Even streetlights are not active in city centers in these cities, especially in Adıyaman. There is a lack of generators in search and rescue activities. Citizens use flashlights and candles to meet the need for lighting. No steps have been taken to solve the electricity or water problems in villages and countryside areas. There are serious challenges and problems in the transportation, storage, and distribution of the aid delivered to the city centers to the victims.
Our crisis desks note that the relevant public authorities have not even met voluntary health officers’ basic needs (food, water, shelter, heating, hygiene, etc.). Voluntary public employees, particularly health officers, went to these cities to help victims, but it seems they are left alone. Health workers working in challenging conditions for three days are exhausted. Numerous complaints and criticisms exist that public authorities do not provide transportation to health officers who want to return home for shift change. In addition, these authorities ask voluntary health officers to “find transportation means via their efforts.”
In short, search and rescue teams still face various problems in almost every location. There are still problems to be solved in these cities. Municipalities, voluntary activists, health officers, firefighters, and first responders aim to fill the gap resulting from the public authorities’ faults that became visible in delays on the first day and immediate response. These volunteers work very hard in the whole earthquake zone.
Despite all these problems that we have experienced, KESK and its affiliates will continue to stand with the earthquake victims and help them. We are determined to do our best. We know solidarity is the only tool to overcome this difficult period and alleviate citizens’ suffering.
In this respect, KESK units continue to deliver the aid collected by our members from all provinces to the earthquake zone.
We have opened our coordination tents in these districts and cities. We called on our members to work voluntarily in these tents. As usual, our members immediately responded to our call. Therefore, we will intensify our solidarity initiatives.
Once again, we would like to underline that KESK will continue to do its best for our members and all citizens till the end.
KESK stands with its members, their families, and all people. Our confederation will continue to stand with them.
The KESK crisis desk will continue to update the public on the process.
We will overcome difficulties, suffering, and dark periods with solidarity