THEY WERE PREPARED, ARE YOU?
By Chris Elliott
This week’s breaking news includes two reports of earthquakes on Tuesday 15th October 2013, the first being a 7.1 earthquake that struck the central area of the Phillipines and it is being reported that 144 people have been killed and 291 injured. The other report is of a 4.1 earthquake in the sea to the south-east of Xylofagou, Cyprus with some minor tremors being noted on the mainland.
So should we concern ourselves with the prospect of an earthquake affecting Cyprus? As you will read in the article below which I previously published in a newspaper, we are all at risk in our daily lives from many dangers and it’s a question of should we be prepared?
THEY WERE PREPARED!
So why are volunteers so important?
On Sunday May 20th 2012 in Italy, there was a Magnitude 6 Earthquake which killed around 5 people and many were injured. Following this there were aftershocks of magnitude 5.1 causing heavy damage and 3,000 people or more were evacuated from the area. So how does this concern Cyprus? On Friday 11th May there was a magnitude 5.4 earthquake deep under the sea 57 miles SSE of Famagusta.
In the past few years we have seen forest fires and flooding which have caused major difficulties here in the TRNC but these have been handled in a very professional manner and lessons have been learned and action taken to minimise future risks. The last air crash here in North Cyprus was near Buffavento Castle in 1988 and with increasing air traffic over the island ever since, it says a lot about control and preventative measures that have guarded against similar incidents.
So this leaves earthquakes as a potential disaster which we try to predict but are unable to control or prevent. Cyprus lies in the second most earthquake stricken zone on earth. Luckily for Cyprus it is located in a less active sector of this zone, and it experiences earthquakes less frequently and of a lower magnitude than that of Greece and Turkey. However, that does not mean that earthquakes are an isolated event. Throughout the year there are many recorded events (tremors) that while might go unnoticed by the population are still recorded by the sensors on the island. The most notable seismic threat for Cyprus probably comes from what is known as the Cyprian Arc which lies to the south of the island.
After the tragedy of 2004 when a resulting tsunami devastated the Asian region (Indonesia being the hardest hit), countries all over the world wanted to test if they were ready for a tsunami. At this time the Government of the Republic of Cyprus determined that in the case of the Cyprian Arc the resulting tsunami would get to the southernmost shore so fast that an evacuation would be impossible and thus an early warning system would be futile. Here in North Cyprus there are 3 seismic sensor centres which are linked into the Bogazici University earthquake monitoring centre in Turkey and in the south there is a similar system.
In recent history there have been only a handful of earthquakes that have done serious damage to the infrastructure and populous of Cyprus. After the last great earthquake that devastated Paphos in 1953 (Magnitude 6.5 on the Richter scale) new building standards were put in place to safeguard the population.
Whilst not wishing to underplay the importance of the possibility of a serious earthquake in Cyprus this article looks at what we can do as individuals if such an emergency or another emergency ever arises. Would you have been ready to handle the following?
The 1999 İzmit earthquake was a 7.6 magnitude that struck north-western Turkey on August 17, 1999, at about 3:02am local time. The event lasted for 37 seconds, killing around 17,000 people and leaving approximately half a million people homeless. The nearby city of Izmit was very badly damaged.
The earthquake was heavily felt in this industrialized and densely populated urban area of the country, including oil refineries, several automotive plants, and the Turkish navy headquarters and arsenal in Gölcük, increasing the severity of the loss of life and property. The earthquake caused a subsequent fire due to a collapse of a tower in a Tüpraş oil refinery. The refinery had over 700,000 tons of oil stored. It took several days to get the fire under control. The earthquake also caused considerable damage in Istanbul, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) away from the earthquake’s epicentre.
A massive international response was mounted to assist and the UK was involved with volunteer teams which included 8 members of the Thames Valley Medical and Rescue Unit led by Terry Carter, who were, on arrival at Istanbul, despatched to Gokuet a city roughly the size of Portsmouth.
On the first day, they set up a makeshift clinic and treated 200 victims. Conditions were horrendous with temperatures being over 100 degrees and the team had to wear face masks because of the stench of dead bodies from destroyed buildings nearby. During the ten days they were there, they treated 650 victims and worked alongside a South Korean Fire Service team and a team from Israel.
For any team of volunteers to be called in to help in this type of emergency must have been very difficult but fortunately some members from Thames Valley Medical and Rescue Unit had been visiting Turkey over the previous 13 years and had been teaching first aid to the Turkish Emergency Services and as a result of this, there was an instinctive team bonding and trust and confidence when it was most needed.
Looking back now in 2012, I asked Terry what his thoughts were of this past experience:
“The team from Thames Valley Medical and Rescue Unit was on scene within twelve hours of the event after a personal call from the Turkish Embassy and the chairman of British Airways who arranged first class travel to Istanbul.
On arrival we were met and escorted to the Police coordinating centre at the airport and were teamed up with 8 English speaking Turkish engineers, and construction experts who were placed under my command so that we had a complete team for safety reasons.
We proceeded under police escort to Izmit and on the way we had a toilet stop and whilst there, a car raced up and the driver asked for assistance for three passengers who had been trapped under rubble and were injured. We immediately got to work and I stitched up one man with 20 stitches while the rest of the team treated the other two, this was the first dose of things to come.
Over the next 10 days that TVMRU personnel were on scene, we treated 650 live casualties and helped extricate numerous dead. One of our members volunteered to swim and dived into the sea to recover bodies – not a pleasant job.
People do not understand the horror of the event that left in excess of 17,000 dead and thousands displaced and wounded. On the positive side the Turkish Army were fantastic and very well organised and the Ambassador on our return praised the training that TVMRU had given stating that many more would have died had the training that we had given not taken place.
That is one of the reasons that the training of quality volunteers is a must in the TRNC, it took 3 minutes to wreak that devastation. We must be prepared, it is no good wringing your hands after the event and blaming everyone for lack of preparedness, so volunteer now”.
Since those few desperate days in Turkey, Terry Carter has settled in the TRNC and carried forward that very important mission, to find volunteers who also want to help others. Terry’s “Be Prepared” mission continues and he will be shortly returning to the UK for a restful life but leaves behind a very important and effective group of volunteers that are CESV.
We have written in the past about Civil Defence (Sivil Savunma) and their working association with the Civil Emergency Service Volunteers (CESV) who are playing an increasing role in assisting Civil Defence as well as helping with cross service training with the TRNC Emergency Services.
The most common emergencies that require the skills of Sivil Savunma to manage and co-ordinate action for are Fire or Floods which we have all experienced and seen their effectiveness. When it comes to earthquakes Sivil Savunma are well prepared having sent Search and Rescue Teams to both Turkey and Pakistan in the past and maintain their readiness for all types of emergency by preparing to be ready Before, During and After an emergency and they do look for help from trained volunteers that are part of CESV.
For those interested in receiving first aid training and being trained and becoming part of a CESV team, then contact Steve Collard the Operations Director on 0548 845 5927 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to express my thanks to Terry Carter for his help in writing this article and for the photographs provided. My thanks are also extended to Sivil Savunma for their help and support when we have been helping promote the past work of CESV.