Aiming to build a disaster resilient society, Turkey put great effort to assist those who are hit by natural disaster.
Turkey ranks third in the world in terms of earthquake-related casualties and eighth with regard to the total number of people affected. Every year, the country experiences at least one 5+ magnitude earthquake - which renders the proper management and coordination of disasters absolutely crucial.
The 1999 Marmara earthquake, however, marked the turning point in the area of disaster management and coordination. This devastating disaster clearly demonstrated the need to reform disaster management and compelled the country to establish a single government institution to single-handedly coordinate and exercise legal authority in cases of disaster and emergencies.
Established in 2009, the national disaster management agency Disaster and Emergency Directorate (AFAD) is the main actor in building a resilient country and responding to disasters.
Over the past nine years, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority successfully coordinated to Turkey's response to a number of devastating earthquakes and floods, among others, and helped survivors get their lives back on track. At the international level, AFAD completed successful missions to provide humanitarian assistance to over 50 countries around the globe. The agency currently runs a network of 21 state-of-the-art refugee camps where over 230.000 people enjoy regular access to housing, healthcare, education and psychological support.
One of the most self-sacrificing AFAD teams operates in Bolu province, located on the North Anatolian Fault. Covered by forests at the rate of 65 percent, AFAD team conducts search and rescue works in water and at high, rough lands along with responding hitches after natural disasters.
Bolu Disaster and Emergency Directorate serves with a search and rescue team of 10, five search and rescue vehicles and four personnel vehicles. The teams, who have every kind of equipment, respond to the cases in forestlands and wetlands in Bolu, which features nearly 200 lakes and ponds and a huge area covered by forests.
Taking part in responses to the fire and traffic accidents, the AFAD teams do not hesitate to put their lives in danger during their duty of saving lives, which they described as sacred.
They also deliver goats which are lost in especially rocky regions in nature and other pets, saving their lives in addition to human lives, to their owners. The teams responded to 81 cases in 2017 and 17 cases until April this year.
FOCUS ON SAVING LIVES
Bolu Disaster and Emergency Director Cenk Yıldız told Anadolu Agency (AA) that their job is among the difficult occupation groups.
Noting every job has some difficulties, Yıldız said, "Our job also has some dif
ficulties. Life is so important for us. We work as an institution integrated into saving lives. We take the chance in order to save a person from a difficult situation as cry or suffering of people affects us deeply. This gives us a great happiness and satisfaction."
The director explained that everyone working within the body of AFAD behaves with this conscious and added, "We are official servants. However, if you do not like this job from the heart, you cannot perform it. Therefore, we continue our works with the slogan of 'Where there is life there is AFAD'."
Reporting their priority is earthquakes as Bolu is on North Anatolian Fault, Yıldız remarked they also respond to cases such as landslide, rock or stone fall, chemical or biological leak along with missing and stuck events.
SELF-SACRIFICE IF NEEDED
Search and rescue technician İsmail Ermiş mentioned that their real duty is to save disaster victims in earthquakes.
Stressing they have other duties along with that one, Ermiş stated, "Saving those who are stuck, finding missing ones and rescuing victims of traffic accidents from where they squash into are one of these other duties. We sometimes have difficulties. Besides, we sometimes enjoy these difficulties."
He implied they love the job that they perform to save lives. "We are a team who practice their slogan. Every job naturally has some difficulties. The most difficult part of our occupation is that it is a life-threatening one. We perform our duty, renouncing from our lives. We save people or animals when they are stuck on mountains or sides, dangling from rocks. We try to not put our lives in danger but our occupation is dangerous itself," he continued.
The technician added, "There is beauty in every difficulty. Therefore, we sometimes empathize with those which we save. For example, one of our children or our parents can be lost. When we empathize with them, we work much eagerly. In some cases, we cannot go to our homes for days. We stay in forests but our job is sacred as we save lives."
NEVER LEFT A DUTY UNDONE
Search and rescue technician Cem Sezgin implied that they are ready for every duty.
Telling they carried a citizen who lost his life in a hole while searching for a treasure with a stretcher for five kilometers in one of their duties, Sezgin told, "We complete our duty successfully, using our conditions and opportunities all the way. We have never left a duty undone to date. When we have difficulty to do something, we call reinforcing teams. However, the team on duty tries to finish up the problem, using all opportunities."
Another technician Suat Acar mentioned that they experience very interesting events and reported that they were surprised when they learned a lost citizen in Mudurnu district run from them for two days.
Highlighting they take into consideration every report, whatever happens, Acar lastly said that helping every report is AFAD's duty.
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