Friday, March 5, 2010


I thought the first in-person meeting of Jor El Istanbul, last Wednesday, was a good start. We are certainly all of like mind about the seriousness of the risk and the inadequacy of Istanbul's disaster planning.

We'll be meeting the general coordinator of the MAY and LIDAH projects on March 25 from 16:30-18:00 in Gayrettepe. We plan also, individually, to meet our local muhtars to learn more about our own neighborhoods' disaster preparation. We'll offer to cooperate with them to improve these plans and communicate the plans to other people in our neighborhoods.

Several very disturbing points came up. I'm hoping other members of the group will contribute to listing them: These are points that should be made public in Turkish, not English. My Turkish really isn't good enough.

By far the most disturbing point was this. A member of the group is certain that a school in Kağıthane that is said to have been retrofitted has not in fact been made secure. He said that 350,000 YTL was spent to retrofit the school, but the foundation is still only 16 cm. deep. He also said that the engineer who supervised the work told him, "I wouldn't send my children here." He believed this to be true of many schools that have supposedly been retrofitted.

He wasn't willing to discuss the details of this. I can't confirm, immediately, that the story is true. But the possibility that it's true is enough to make me think this should be investigated aggressively. The parents of those 1,100 children believe their kids are safe in that school. If they're not, those parents are entitled to know -- and those children shouldn't be in there.

This is what happens in a major earthquake to schools that are not properly secured:

China's quake: Why did so many schools collapse?

As the school came into view, they were horrified to see that it had collapsed.

"What had been a three-story building was a ramp, you could walk up it," Pasternak said.

He said there were likely several hundred children inside at the time of the collapse, including numerous orphans and disabled children.

They worked overnight to pull children from the rubble, without the help of tools or machinery. By morning, they had pulled out about 25 wounded children and the bodies of nearly 30 children who had died.

No one has an exact count of how many children were inside the building when it crumbled, but Pasternak said about 50-100 were seen fleeing the school after the quake, meaning that between 50 and 200 children were still underneath the rubble.

Pasternak said Wander, a 65-year-old former San Rafael schoolteacher who has volunteered periodically in Haiti for about the past decade, worked tirelessly.

"She was on absolute overdrive of wanting to help," he said. "She was Florence Nightingale. She was out there trying to rescue some of the kids who were obviously dying."

Wander also had the presence of mind to photograph the deceased children to identify them later, he said.
Does anyone doubt that if the story of the inadequate retrofitting of this school is true, we all have a moral responsibility to do something about it? Now?

Is there anyone who will help me find out more about this?

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