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Tuesday, 15 August, 2000, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Turkey learns lessons from earthquake
Rescue workers practice listening for signs of life during a training exercise
Rescue workers practice listening for signs of life during a training exercise
By Chris Morris in Istanbul

Once again, rescue workers are listening, hoping to hear the sound of human life underneath the rubble.

A year ago, a similar scene was replayed under desperate conditions in towns and cities across north-western Turkey.


The main cause of fear is that people don't really know what an earthquake is, or what to do when it happens

Yilmaz Ornek, Istanbul Civil Defence Organisation
On this occasion, it is just a drill. Over the last 12 months, more than 5,000 people in Istanbul alone have been trained in the basics of earthquake rescue.

A civil defence course used to be an annual event. Now, it takes place place every week.

"Everyone should come on a course like this including children and the elderly," says Sema who is undergoing training.

"We all have to be more aware."

"Istanbul is better prepared than it was a year ago but it's still not enough," says Alaattin, another trainee.

Slow reaction

Many feel that lives were lost during last year's tragedy because rescue plans were poor
Many feel that lives were lost during last year's tragedy because rescue plans were poor
Many Turks were horrified by how slowly the state reacted in the aftermath of last year's earthquake.

Lives were lost because of bad organisation and inefficiency.

Some of the people on the courses are local government workers.

However, the majority are volunteers. Ordinary people, like Yilmaz Ornek, want to be ready next time around.

"People were terrified by their experience during the earthquake," he says.

Chris Morris examines the violent seismic record of last year's earthquake
Chris Morris examines the violent seismic record of last year's earthquake
"But they begin to come to terms with it during the training programme."

"The main cause of fear is that people don't really know what an earthquake is, or what to do when it happens."

Scientists are also stepping up their efforts - increasing the number of seismic monitoring stations.

Public awareness

Public awareness is a crucial factor because the scientists know the clock is ticking.

So it is not just adults who are being targetted. A cartoon has been produced for schools across the country to mark the first anniversary.

The star of the show is Turkey's most famous earthquake expert, Ahmet Mete Isikara.

"There are two ways," he explains.

"One is earthquake-resistant buildings; the other is education."

Isikara: More awareness and earthquake - resistant buildings for Turkish people
Isikara: Trying to raise awareness about earthquakes
"If you satisfy those two conditions, what I'm telling the Turkish people is there is no need to be scared of the earthquakes."

The North Anatolian fault makes this part of Turkey one of the most active earthquake zones in the world.

It is a city which is, belatedly, learning to live with that threat.

Istanbul is home to 10 million people. Sooner or later, there will be another earthquake.

Next time, the epicentre could be much closer to the city itself.

If anything good came out of last year's events, it is that Turkey is now rolling up its sleeves and getting ready to meet that challenge.

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See also:

25 Jul 00 | Europe
Turkey scraps nuclear plan
06 Jun 00 | Europe
Quake shakes Turkey
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
27 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Istanbul quake likely by 2030
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