On August 17th 1999, at approximately 3:15 a.m., the small town of Izmit, Turkey, and the province surrounding, sustained one of the worst disasters in human history. In 45 seconds, 60,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged; 40,000 people perished or are now considered missing; 30,000 people suffered injuries; and 200,000 people found themselves homeless.
As Clive Calver, President of World Relief, stated after arriving in Turkey, “This is no ordinary disaster. It’s colossal... The sheer level of devastation is incredible. In ten years’ time, Turkey will still be recovering from [those] 45 seconds.”
Heavy rains continue as the people of this community try to rebuild. Unfortunately, most of the survivors have limited options and find their only housing arrangement is sleeping in the open or in a makeshift tent. Daily rations of food, medicine and clothing are being distributed by a handful of churches but supplies are depleted. Financial assistance is needed to purchase household supplies, infant care items, personal hygiene items and emergency shelter.
In a critical meeting arranged by the church leaders of Turkey, the governor of the affected province around Izmit has asked World Relief to erect a camp of up to 1,000 tents and/or semi-permanent housing for families living in the area. World Relief has undertaken this project. Preparation of surface terrain began last week.
Truckload after truckload of gravel was dumped onto the soil in order to provide protection against the effects of rain. After the ground was prepared, emergency latrines and shower facilities were assembled. World Relief’s immediate objective is to erect 500 tents in the upcoming weeks to provide for people who currently live in makeshift shelters. Once the tents are occupied, it is anticipated that World Relief will be responsible for the food security and medical needs of the occupants.
In the upcoming months, World Relief intends to pursue the more desirable option of purchasing commercially made units to house displaced families over the harsh and wet winter months. These winterized units are insulated, have built-in interior and exterior lights and can be stacked into apartment type units if needed. The cost is approximately $3,450 for each unit. Due to the extent of the devastation, it has been estimated that World Relief will need $2.5 million to help the people of Turkey begin to recover from the effects of the earthquake. This includes the continuing distribution of food and supplies, setting up the tent camp and providing adequate shelter before winter arrives.
World Vision U.S., World Vision Canada, and World Concern have all designated World Relief as the lead disaster relief agency during this crisis.
The Christians in Turkey want to use this time of desperate need to gain credibility in the eyes of their predominantly Muslim community. “By providing high quality care to the earthquake victims and families in need of shelter we...will put the church in a very positive light,” reported Stephen Houston, World Relief’s disaster response coordinator for Turkey, just after the meeting with church leaders in Istanbul. “Thus we will bring glory to God while relieving human suffering.”
Please pray for: 1) the injured and those who have lost—or are missing—family members; 2) wisdom and strength for staff and church members providing assistance; 3) opportunities for the fellowships in Turkey to share the Gospel through practical demonstrations of Christ’s love and compassion.
For more information on this, see World Relief.