Turkey earthquake: Precious lessons | By Zeenia Satti


Turkey earthquake: Precious lessons

WHILE the current earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria has deeply impacted hearts and minds in Pakistan, motivating all major Pakistani civil society organizations to participate in relief and rescue, and all citizens to pray in mosques and churches across Pakistan for speedy recovery in both countries, it is simultaneously an opportunity for Pakistan to study and learn what major earthquakes bring to rural and urban areas and how major earthquakes may be managed.

Shahbaz Sharif government is urged to send a team of disaster management professionals to Turkey, entrusting them with the sole responsibility of in-depth study of Turkey’s current major earthquake disaster, its proliferation (Disaster Proliferation – DP – happens when an original disaster leads to a cascade of other disasters, complicating relief work even further) and the management effort in all its critical details. Syria is a challenging political environment. Turkey is better suited for the proposed study. Although Syria too is a laboratory for the study of management of natural disasters in a politically fractured environment, such an environment can be best observed utilizing the resources of an international Non-Governmental Organization such as the UN or Doctors without Borders and the like.

Seismic scientists are expecting a major earthquake to strike Pakistan in the near future. Pakistan lies atop several fault lines. Pakistan is also on the list of top ten countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. Earthquakes are directly related to climate change. Given our vulnerability and our resources, we cannot prepare enough for the natural disaster of earthquake to survive it socially and economically. Turkey is now our precious opportunity to equip ourselves with necessary knowledge.

A multifaceted natural disaster like earthquake cannot be studied on paper only. Though each major earthquake is unique in its effects depending on the level of infrastructural sophistication of the area where earthquakes strike, all earthquakes are similar in their range of impacts. Earthquake as a disaster is best studied and learned from during the immediate aftermath of a real happening. Its footprints cannot be used for learning what to expect and how to counter the devastation wrought in the wake of a major earthquake disaster in urban and rural settings, in mountainous and low lying regions, along shores and in deserts, in cold and hot weather.

Turkey presents Pakistan with a precious opportunity of learning lessons from a major earthquake disaster. Given that earthquakes of the magnitude and scale Turkey is enduring at present are rare, the opportunity of drawing lessons from it through in-depth first-hand observation is also equally rare and priceless and should never be missed by Pakistan’s disaster professionals.

Pakistan’s People Led Disaster Management- PPLDM –  cannot emphasize enough both the significance and the urgency of such a compelling study. By sending observers to the affected zone to collect data for research and development in major earthquake disaster management, we not only improve our own capacity to better protect our people during a major earthquake, we also become storehouse of risk reduction knowledge the world can utilize with our collaboration. With reference to Sandai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, our effort will enable us to be the role model in resilience.  If we follow the proposed approach we can better qualify for global assistance during our own unfortunate major earthquake, the likelihood of which is unquestionable.

—The writer is CEO at Pakistan’s People Led Disaster Management.