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Red Cross Appeals for Financial Aid to Help Turkey Earthquake Victims - 2003-05-03

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is appealing for nearly $2 million to help victims of the earthquake that shook the southeastern Turkish province of Bingol.

The Turkish Red Crescent was on the spot immediately after the earthquake struck Bingol in the early hours of Thursday. The volunteers brought with them emergency relief supplies, including thousands of blankets and tents, medicine and five tons of food.

But Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Francoise Borel says these stocks are now running out and need to be replenished. "We are going to take care of 36,000 people," she said. "We do not know yet what the future will hold. Do not forget that all the assessments are not in yet. We do not know exactly yet what the situation is in Bingol and in all the outlying villages. So, we may have more tragic surprises. We hope not. But, we may have that as well."

The Red Cross estimates that about 60,000 people have been affected by the earthquake. Ms. Borel says no one knows how many thousands of people have been made homeless. She says many people whose houses are still standing are terrified of sleeping inside for fear of aftershocks. She says they, too, will need temporary shelter, until they feel confident enough to return to their homes.

Ms. Borel also says many people are severely traumatized by this experience and will need psychological help to recover. "Imagine, you are at home, and you are sleeping, and all of a sudden, you are awakened, and your world has crumbled around you," said Ms. Borel. "There are people screaming. There are people yelling. There are children crying, and everything has disappeared around you. It is extremely traumatizing. And one of the things we will be doing, as well, is to support the psycho-social programs of the Turkish Red Crescent, because families will need some time to deal with the pain and the grief of losing their loved ones. "

Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Francoise Borel says search and rescue operations are still going on. She says 120 children have been found alive in the rubble of their collapsed school dormitory, but scores of others are dead, and some are still missing.

Ms. Borel says the people of Bingol have not given up hope that some of these children may yet be found alive.