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Fifty years after the 1966 earthquake in Turkey

More than 2000 people lost their lives as a result of the severe earthquake in eastern Turkey on August 19, 1966. Many more were seriously injured and tens of thousands lost their property. On August 26, 1966, a THW relief mission to Turkey started. 30 volunteers from the local sections in Bonn, Cologne and Dortmund took part, primarily working at the devastated hospital and administration buildings in Hinis.

The buildings in the town of Hinis, some 100 kilometres from Ezurum, the largest city in Eastern Anatolia, were most severely hit by the tremors. These included the hospital and the administration buildings, with valuable medicines, medical equipment and other hospital facilities left lying under the rubble. They were urgently needed to treat the injured.

Recovery of medicines and equipment to the value of 60,000 DM

The THW operatives began by securing the buildings against further damage, as well as dismantling and removing the roof structures, which had dislocated. Then they rapidly gained access to the first materials. They managed to salvage four tonnes of usable medicines, hospital and laboratory equipment, medical files, specialist literature and foodstuffs. In financial terms this was worth some 60,000 German marks. In order to provide accommodation for the injured patients, the THW volunteers erected large tents to serve as a temporary hospital.

The district administration buildings in Hinis had suffered similar damage: the roof and upper storeys had collapsed. The THW took on the task of reinforcing and bracing the building to prevent further collapse. Then the volunteers began to take down the parts of the devastated roof and upper storeys. The securing and debris clearance work at the hospital and administration building were also necessary to prepare the buildings for the reconstruction efforts which were soon to start. The THW worked closely together with the Turkish army.

THW experts for almost all tasks

Since the area’s water supply was also damaged, THW operatives worked on parts of the water mains, too. The THW team’s electricians installed lighting for the site and the tents, which they could connect to the local power grid. They repaired damage to the electrical systems of the hospital and administration building, and laid a new branch connection into the ancillary building of the hospital, which had remained relatively intact. In addition, they provided power to the hospital tents for the lighting and operation of medical equipment.

Handover of THW equipment

After a total of almost 15,000 deployment hours, the THW operatives ended their mission on September 10, 1966. By order of the German Ministry of the Interior, they handed over the tents and medicines they had brought with them to the Turkish health authority.

You can find a more comprehensive report on the THW team’s mission at the Website of the THW Historical Collection. This Turkey mission was one of the earliest international deployments for the THW. Its first mission abroad was to assist with repair work after the storm tide in the Netherlands in 1953. That was followed by many more humanitarian assistance missions in the wake of drought periods, civil wars and earthquakes in Africa, Europe and South America, as well as in South and South-East Asia after the tsunami disaster.

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