Responding to Earthquakes in Turkey

On Monday February 6, 2023, Two powerful earthquakes hit Gaziantep in south-eastern Turkey, near the border with Syria. The quakes measured 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude on the US Geological Survey and a depth of 17.9km. Several buildings collapsed. The official death toll has now hit a devastating 47,000 (it was 22,000 on February 10). Many fear the reality is significantly more than that. The tremors were felt as far as the capital Ankara as well as other regions across the country. Aftershocks and tremors continued (our leader in Mersin reported over one hundred) for some time after.

On Monday February 20, another two earthquakes measuring 6.4 and 5.8 hit Turkey’s southern province of Hatay. As well as the devastating loss of life, tens of thousands have been left stranded, with questions and concerns on health, income, housing and heating. The atmosphere is thick with fear and uncertainty. 

In the immediate aftermath earlier this month, families spent many nights in temperatures ranging from near freezing and wet near to coast in Mersin and Adana to -14 degrees C in Kayseri and Nigde. Many were trapped under rubble and countless more displaced. However now with the second quake, things have become even more dangerous and precarious.

“The situation in Turkey is desperate and catastrophic”, reports Transform Iran President, Lazarus Yeghnazar.  “With widespread damage to buildings and limited provision for shelter in such cold weather there is an immediate issue for survival and an ongoing question of how to care for the displaced.”

Transform Iran’s church in Kayseri had initially responded to the earthquake by opening their doors to refugees to give bread and soup. However, soon after authorities ordered the church to close and for everyone to evacuate. Leaders from the church gathered church members under a tent in an old market in Mersin and in an unheated indoor basketball court in Kayseri. Members were huddled together in the freezing conditions. After the second quake, even these makeshift shelters were told to evacuate. On Monday February 20th, many of our families spent the night in the freezing rain.

When a disaster like this strikes, the initial devastation is the loss of life. But the impact goes far beyond the immediately obvious. Refugees rely on work on a day-to-day basis with no insurance or other protection for loss of earning. The first impact is a loss of income, as well as a very likely loss of livelihood with uncertain prospects for the time being. The situation for these refugees had been difficult anyway with an inflation rate of over 60% – the effect of the earthquake is that things are about to get harder.

As a ministry, we have been establishing a priority of needs amongst our people and are doing our best to meet them. This include medical aid (including provision of vitamins to protect against malnutrition and susceptibility to disease – the sad reality is that many refugee families had already been suffering the effects of food poverty before the quake) and warm clothing and warm shoes (cost of a pair for an adult in Turkey is about £45 / $54 / €50).

We would love to look beyond our own flock and help the many desperate families around us who look to us for support. Whatever resources we receive we will use in full to help those in need.

Despite challenging circumstances, believers in both Mersin and Kayseri have willingly been sharing with others in need, be they Turk, Syrian or Iranian. In Mersin responding to a call for help the church has offered to accommodate families, Iranian or Turkish; the local Governor’s (Vali) office has expressed their thanks to the leaders, Hamid and Rose.

We remain in close contact with our churches to keep up to date with the situation. Many buildings are unsafe for occupation. This means those who are displaced will need emergency support to survive now, and resources for alternative provision if they cannot return to their homes.

We have now relocated those who are willing to forego jobs to our churches located away from the most dangerous zones. Sadly many of the believers cannot risk losing jobs they have fought to gain and so have chosen to stay in areas still at risk, continuing to work because if they don’t, they will certainly lose their livelihoods. In today’s climate in Turkey, that is difficult to recover from.

How can you help meet the practical needs?

  • We need support to provide heating for churches and scattered believers, food supplies for church kitchens to distribute meals, blankets and warm clothing and shoes.
  • We also need vitamins to support health as people are living in difficult unhygienic conditions with extensive exposure to cold and poor food quality.
  • Refugee believers will need support for living expenses for those who cannot now work.
  • We would also like to renting minibuses for teams (particularly in Mersin) to take support to more damaged areas where we have believers – particularly Adana and Marash.
  • You can donate via our website and designate your gift to ‘Helping The Hurting’.

How can you pray with us?

  • Pray for the believers and churches in Turkey and all those impacted (effects also felt in Northern Syria and Northwest Iran). Pray for survival in the bitter cold, for peace, for courage, for joy, for health, for provision for basic needs over the coming months.
  • Pray for the communities around our churches. That we would be able to provide comfort as well as practical aid.
  • Pray for the region as a whole. For aid agencies to work efficiently and well together, for those buried in rubble to be quickly identified and rescued, for comfort for those who mourn, for wisdom amongst decision makers helping the people respond to and move on from this disaster.
From Darkness to Light: A Young Muslim Eulogist’s Story Practical Aid to Earthquake Victims

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