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Another Earthquake in Van: Turkey’s Disaster Agency Put to the Test

At 3 am AMT (local time in Yerevan) another earthquake struck Turkey’s eastern region around the city of Van. There is currently not news on casualties or destruction resulting from the 5.2-magnitude quake with its epicenter having a depth of 10 km. The number of casualties combined from the Oct. 23 and Nov. 9 quakes in the same region has now reached 650.

As reported by Hurriyet Daily News, the earthquake has become the most damaging disaster Turkey has faced in the last 10 years. Yet, some civil defense experts and rescue workers say Turkey failed with flying colors.

Turkey’s current authority for dealing with such disasters is called the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), which was established in 2009 to replace the Civil Defense General Directorate.

An AFAD rescue specialist in İzmir, who preferred to remain anonymous, said AFAD’s general directorate in Ankara had even failed in transporting its workers to Van.

“We had to drive to Van by our own means because the plane carrying rescuers to the quake-hit city only had a few places. It took us 30 hours to drive there and we were all tired. The first 24 hours are critical and we lost that time,” the rescuer said.

“Turkey took a big step after the 1999 earthquake and we have many specially qualified rescue workers. However, we still have a long way to go in terms of coordination,” said former civil defense worker Ömer Karaca. Karaca said he could not imagine what might happen if an earthquake hits Istanbul. Others say Turkey has failed in the task of managing the disaster.

“We failed for the 600,000 people in Van. What would we do in Istanbul with 18 million people?” an AFAD specialist said.