Less Fearful, More Active: The Aftermath

Photograph by Rana Mullan © UNICEF Turkey 2001

The remains of a ruined street in Gölcük.
Photograph by Rana Mullan © UNICEF Turkey 2001

When an earthquake of the magnitude of those in the Marmara region strikes, the ground shifts a distance of up to eight metres within the first minute. At the epicentre, vertical displacement extends to as much as seventeen metres. Buildings list, crack and rotate on their foundations or sink up to two storeys into the ground as it undergoes the phenomenon of liquifaction. Less stable structures collapse, pancaking onto themselves or disintegrate into a pile of rubble where the largest piece to be found afterwards would be no larger than a washing machine. As the ground sunders, windows begin to vibrate at stomach-churningly low frequencies, adding to the overpowering rumble of the tremor, before shattering into thousands of pieces. Power is cut. Lights go out.

Table 1: Total population, number of deaths and damaged houses in the first earthquake
Province Total Population Damaged Houses Ratio Number of Deaths Percentage of Deaths
Kocaeli 1,177,586 113,586 10.36 9,419 0.79
Sakarya 731,800 66,154 11.06 3,894 0.53
Yalova 163,920 40,688 4.02 2,505 1.52
& Düzce
553,020 33,610 16.45 1,078 0.19
Total 2,626,120 254,038 10.33 16,896 0.64

People are gone. All around, voices are crying for help. For the fortunate ones, the children and their parents and families who survive such an ordeal, the world has turned upside-down. The house in which they had been living moments before is no longer a home: in many cases, it has become a tomb for the less fortunate ones. The psychological impact on the survivors, the fortunate ones, is indescribable. The physical effects of the earthquake would be, perhaps, the closest analogy to the internal suffering which ensues.

Photograph by Rana Mullan © UNICEF Turkey 2001

The Sports Centre at Gölcük, half-submerged in an inlet of the Marmara Sea.
Photograph by Rana Mullan © UNICEF Turkey 2001

Among the thousands of volunteers who gave their help to the survivors in the weeks following the disaster there were psychologists from the Turkish Psychologists Association (TPA) -- which has four branches in İstanbul, Ankara, Bursa and İzmir -- and psychologists, social workers and medical staff from all over the country and abroad. Living in tents themselves, the psychologists gave their services to the tent cities, providing group counselling and recreation on a spontaneous basis, operating by rotation in order to ensure continuity of services. However, having regular jobs and families of their own, they found it increasingly difficult to maintain sufficient numbers in the field. Within a month, UNICEF provided support and, through a basic understanding about the provision of services, enhanced their activities. Under this agreement, the TPA was able to maintain a constant presence of fifty psychologists in the field through a fortnightly rotation of over four hundred members.

Table 2: Official number of buildings damaged by the Gölcük tremor
Condition of buildings Kocaeli Sakarya Yalova Bolu & Düzce Total
Collapsed or heavily damaged 5,367 5,069 674 2,180 13,290
Moderately damaged 5,462 3,579 1,087 2,231 12,359
Slightly damaged 5,791 2,349 1,881 1,519 11,540
Total 16,620 10,997 3,642 5,930 37,189
Table 3: Actual number of buildings damaged by the Gölcük tremor
Condition of buildings Kocaeli Sakarya Yalova Bolu & Düzce Total
Collapsed or heavily damaged 32,445 23,969 13,989 11,427 81,830
Moderately damaged 38,987 17,759 14,014 11,012 81,772
Slightly damaged 42,154 24,426 12,685 11,171 90,436
Total 113,586 66,154 40,688 33,610 254,038

During the course of field assessments following the first tremor at Gölcük, UNICEF psycho-social consultants interviewed many children and their families. The children displayed a number of post-traumatic symptoms, their parents reporting that they were unable to close their eyes and sleep, or that they were unable to remain asleep, fearful of a recurrence of the disaster. Other typical reactions included the recurrence of intrusive, distressing thoughts and images of the disaster, numbness, a sense of detachment, general irritability and nervousness. Some parents reported feelings of anger towards their children. Grief was profound among the many who had been bereaved. Such reactions can be overwhelming and, if not dealt with, may cause long-term psychological problems. It was plainly apparent that a psycho-social intervention programme was required to meet the needs of the children and that their parents and those who represented points of reference in the children’s lives, such as teachers, should be included within the scope of the programme.

The fully illustrated text of Less Fearful, More Active is also available for download in print-ready pdf format. [PDF 1.25MB]

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