Turkey: Red Crescent assists flood survivors

By Ayberk Yurtsever and Erdem =C7öplen, Turkish Red Crescent Society

North-western Turkey and Istanbul have been hit by the heaviest rains in 80 years. The floods, that followed, killed at least 34 people. Nine people remain missing, roads, homes and farmland have been submerged. According to official reports, more than 35,000 people have been affected. The damage is estimated in billions of Turkish lira.

Turkish emergency units were on alert as the flash floods swept across the country on 8 September. In the following hours, emergency workers rescued more than 1,300 people.

Since then, the Turkish Red Crescent (TRCS), in coordination with the Turkish Emergency Management Agency and the Disaster Coordination Centre, has distributed emergency shelter kits, food, water and hygiene kits to the affected people. According to the Red Crescent's initial assessment, 5,000 people are in urgent need of help over the coming months.

"Food and non-food supplies, psychosocial support and legal advice are the most urgent needs of the survivors," report Red Crescent workers from the disaster regions.

"The needs are huge"

"We managed to respond to the immediate needs in the regions affected by the floods," says Omer Tasli, director general of the Turkish Red Crescent Society. "We also alerted our units in 14 other provinces that might be at risk of flooding. Our disaster response and logistics centres are coordinating with the local branches and all staff and volunteers have been mobilized. The needs are huge and we try to organize support as soon as possible."

Immediately, the Turkish Red Crescent dispatched 20 prefabricated houses and a mobile bakery that can produce 10,000 loaves per day. 1,760 beds, hundreds of mattress, blankets and kitchen sets have been distributed to the affected families as well as drinking water, food rations and hygiene items. 7,800 people are receiving hot food from two mobile Red Crescent kitchens that were set up in the most severely affected areas.

"I have only ever seen a disaster like this on television," says Mehmet Yildirim, 30, who lost all his belongings to the floods. Like many others in his village, his family was forced to flee from their home as the water rose. Since last week the Yildrims have been staying with friends in Istanbul. "I never thought that my family would need to seek this kind of help. We have lost almost everything. We saw the water destroying everything as it made it's way through our village. The Red Crescent did not leave us alone and continues to help us with food, clothes and other things," he says.

Psychosocial Support

Two TRCS psychologists and two social workers have started to talk to the flood survivors. They joined the team of 14 psychologists from the Union of Psychosocial Services in Disasters (UPSD) of which the TRCS is a leading member. Together they are providing assistance to 1,018 people.

Three districts in Istanbul and the town of Tekirdag were identified as the ones in most urgent need of psychosocial support. People who lost familiy members were approached first.

"Our work includes psychosocial first aid, community mobilization, work with children, individual and group interviews," says Ozge Akdag, TRCS first aid trainer. "We'll also disseminate information related to trauma and coping mechanisms and inform people about available aid and services."

Longterm support

For the coming three months the Turkish Red Crescent will distribute food and basic non-food items, promote sanitation and safe hygiene practices for the affected population and will provide emergency shelter and psychosocial assistance.

The IFRC has released 294,118 Swiss francs (284,429 US dollar; 194,421 euro) from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the Turkish Red Crescent in delivering immediate assistance to some 5,000 beneficiaries.