Turkey: WHO First situation report, Bingol Earthquake 1 May 2003

Emergency Humanitarian Assistance Diyarbakir Sub-Office - Dr. Enrico L. Frontini M.D.
This morning around 3.30 AM an earthquake Richter scale 6.4 hit the province of Bingol in south eastern Turkey.

Considerable damage was caused to all the buildings of the town of Bingol and to 5 other villages or small towns (Diyabrer, Siirt, Erzurum, Mus, Celtiksuyu). The town of Bingol with around 70.000 inhabitants has been hit less violently than the villages to the east, but taller buildings have suffered more and several have completely collapsed, so that most of the victims come from the densely populated urban area. However the most shocking tragedy occurred in Celtiksuyu where a primary boarding school collapsed completely burying 198 students. In the late afternoon 70 had been rescued from the debris, six of which dead. Also one teacher died while 2 more where saved. Work is continuing to recover the remaining victims.

People crowd the streets although no further shakes occurred until now.

A rapid assessment team from our office composed of Dr. Enrico Frontini and Mr Marvan Rhmallani (translator and office assistant) moved to the area starting from Diyarbakir at 12.00 h and returning at 20.00 h.

Affected population: it was difficult to obtain reliable information and the Crisis Centre put up at the Governor's Office was still very chaotic. A reasonable estimate is that the affected population is less than 100.000 people (70.000 in the town of Bingol and 10 - 20.000 in the surrounding area).

Geographical area: Bingol is a town at the bottom of a large valley among snow capped mountains. It can be reached with a 2 hours drive (140 Km) from Diyarbakir (most important town of the region with a national airport) on a tarmac road in moderately good conditions. The road is narrow, winding an in need of repair only on the mountain pass just before Bingol. The surrounding area is all farmland.

Bingol has a helicopter landing field, no airfield.

Next close town for importance is Elazig (130 Km) with an airfield.

Extent of damage: driving through Bingol one can observe that most of the buildings have minor damages (toppled chimneys, fallen pieces of roof, broken windows) Taller buildings were damaged more and several are completely destroyed. Moving east out of town the damage is more generalised, but small farmhouses did not crumble down completely.

Electric power blackout lasted less than 12 hours and power was back when we reached the town at 3 PM. The water delivered by the town system is reported to be turbid but there was no discontinuation of service.

Mortality and morbidity: up to now the two hospitals that have an emergency room have treated about 500 wounded and report 63 dead. To this 10 dead must be added from villages out of town bringing the toll to 73 (roughly 10/10.000 considering a total population involved of 70 - 80.0000).

Health situation: the problems are treatment of mass casualties and maintenance of health services with severely damaged facilities.

Facilities: there are three hospitals in Bingol

Government hospital (informing person Dr. Selehattin Sandaq) is the main facilities with 200 beds, laboratory, no x-ray service, operating theatre. The building is endangered and engineers are assessing its safety. It is now working only as an emergency room (today about 400 cases seen, 60 deaths reported) tents in the courtyard accommodate extra visiting rooms. Doctors report rapid depletion of dressing material and orthopaedic material stock. The operating theatre cannot be used. Blood transfusions can be performed.

SSK Hospital (informing person Dr. Talat Demirkol) is a much smaller 50 bed facility with x-ray service and an operating theatre that may be brought into activity. However most of the building is considered unsafe and needs an assessment. So only the emergency room with two beds is active. Blood transfusions can be performed but grouping and cross match must be done in the government hospital. Patients who were admitted are accommodated in a precarious manner under three tents in the garden, they had no beds at the moment I visited.

Doctors report shortage of dressing materials.

Maternity Hospital (125 beds) is completely unsafe and has been abandoned. A tent was raised to provide a makeshift delivery room, all 74 admitted patients were evacuated to Elazig. All throughout the building serious damages to concrete pillars can be observed and the walls of the top floor have fallen down.


Activities underway: many rescue teams are active all over. The Turkish Army and Turkish Red Crescent are present.

The prime Minister and other Ministers were visiting at the time of our assessment.

An apparently sufficient number of ambulances is evacuating patients rapidly to the neighbouring cities.

The ministry of health has mobilised a field hospital with a capacity of 50 beds that is currently on the way from Silopi (southern border with Iraq). Medical staff from neighbouring towns is coming to help and materials and drugs are being brought in.

A crisis Centre was established at the Governor's Office tel.: 426 2135567, 426 213 4431.

Key responsible persons are the Deputy Governor Huseyn Oner and the Governor's Assistant Ibrahim Kuguk (for the Mus area).

Other agencies : UNICEF sent a rapid assessment team that we met and coordinated with, composed of staff who were involved in a school counsellors program and are trained in PTSD treatment.

Conclusions: the extent of the disaster is contained, the health situation including water and sanitation, prior to the disaster was at the normal national standard. The mortality is that expected with an event of this nature.

In the absence of further earthquakes one should not expect any increase of mortality or morbility. Challenges are the coordination of response, and the maintenance of health services while facilities are not functioning.

Fortunately medical evacuation is easy and there are no constraints on this side. The response of the government seems adequate.

Recommendations for immediate action:

  • Provision of trauma kits
  • Coverage of psycho-social needs
  • Follow-up and further assessment of needs

Summary: a population of less than 100.000 people of which 70.000 in an urban centre have been seriously affected. The mortality is as expected with an earthquake. No further risks can be identified and the general response seems adequate.

The health facilities are seriously hampered and need support (field hospital, medevac, supplies). The access to the area is good.