Turkey August 1999


11 km (7 mi) southeast of Izmit, Turkey

Magnitude & Depth

7.6M & 17 km (10.5 mi)

Team Deployment

13 member rescue team

My pager sounded at around 09:05 with a message to contact Admin. I telephoned and was told that an earthquake measuring about 7.6 on the Richter scale had struck Turkey at about 03:00 – “Was I available?” – “Yes.”

12:00: I had to get to Aberdeen airport asap for a possible flight at 14:15. On the road by 12:45. On the way to the airport Admin phoned to say that the flight to London was now 15:50 and the good news was that I was the team leader.

Arrived at Gatwick airport, advised Admin of my arrival and was informed of the following:

  1. Flight to Istanbul was ROZ 24O2, leaving at 20:15 from Gatwick.
  2. On arrival at Gatwick I had to make contact with a representative from the British Fire Service Rescue Team.
  3. On arrival at Istanbul we were to meet a representative from the British Consulate and the Turkish minister for the interior.

Having made contact with the British Fire Service Rescue Team representative by telephone I was told to go to the Winston Churchill suite at the airport. Met up with the rest of the team and checked in at the flight desk. Glenn and I went to locate the Winston Churchill suite where we met the Fire Service Team. We then brought the rest of the IRC team to the suite to meet the other rescue team. We had a bite to eat, I conducted a mission briefing and we boarded the Air Rose 737 flight to Istanbul.

Wednesday 18th August 1999

The centre of the block has collapsed but the locals are accessing the structure to remove valuables and pets.

A team member struggles through a small space. Additional supports will be put in place if the hole has to be enlarged to get a casualty out.

The team cutting the hole where they believe that a woman is trapped below. Robert Barrie

The team look into a hole having decided that a woman is underneath. The faces show their thoughts as they see nothing. John Anderson and Stan Robertson.

John S Anderson opened up another small area to expose a timber board which he then pulled out. Brian Davison, John S Anderson, Helen Farley and Paul Wooster.

The team work to stabilise Birsan before she is removed from the rubble. Brian Davison and Helen Farley.

Birsan’s hand is in full view. She had been buried for almost 5 days. She had been in bed and was trapped by her wardrobe which had fallen over due to the action of the quake.

One team member works in the hole to extricate the casualty. Others are ready to help as required. John S Anderson and Brian Davison.

Birsan is pulled from the rubble. Helen Farley, John Anderson, Allan Turner and Glen Lloyd.

Birsan is placed on a stretcher. John S Anderson, Brian Davison, David Dawson, John Anderson, Paul Wooster, Allan Turner, Glen Lloyd and Robert Barrie.

Birsan is carried to a waiting ambulance. David Dawson, Brian Davison, Glen Lloyd, John Anderson, Allan Turner and Robert Barrie.

A Belgian rescue worker and dog help the team to search a building

During the flight Ray and myself agreed on the personnel for two sections. These were as follows –

Section 1 –

  • Brian Davison – Section Leader
  • Stan Robertson – Equipment
  • Ann-Marie McDonald
  • David Dawson
  • Paul Wooster

Section 2 –

  • Rab Barrie – Section Leader
  • Helen Farley – Equipment
  • Allan Turner
  • Dave Maddock
  • John Anderson

The Fire Service Team representative and I discussed the roles of each team and it was agreed that we would work individually, as two separate rescue teams. IRC would be responsible for the deployment of its own team members. The Fire Service Team consisted of 25 members, IRC of 13 – altogether, we were all members of a DFID Team.

Arrived in Istanbul at 02:30 and met as arranged. Both teams were briefed by the Turkish minister for the interior and the IRC team were to be deployed in Yalovan. This was soon changed and the new location was to be Adapazari. A further change was made and our final destination was Duzce.

A convoy of four vehicles, two with British Teams and two with the Swiss dog team, left the airport at 03:30 for a four hour journey by bus to Duzce. The interpreter working with IRC, whose name was Sheck, joined us as we left and informed us that a large number of buildings had collapsed in Duzce but the majority of damage had been in Izmit.

At 08:05 we arrived at Adapazari to find that the town centre was totally destroyed. The bus came to a halt as rubble in the street and large queues of people waiting for food stopped our progress. Sheck stated that we should not leave the bus as many people in the street were becoming upset and irate and the situation might get out of control. We left Adapazari for Duzce at 05:09 leaving the Swiss team behind to begin rescue work in the town. On route we passed an traffic accident at which we stopped to offer assist but, fortunately, none was required.

Arrived at Duzce at 11:25 at the local Disaster Centre to find out where we could set up camp and the areas that the authorities wanted us to search. We were told to camp in the grounds of an army barracks, which was at the rear of the Disaster Centre. The Fire Service Team was sent to another town.

A single block of flats has collapsed whilst the surrounding blocks stay up. Alan Turner and Glen Lloyd do a reconnaissance

John and Dave were left to set up base camp and the rest of the team travelled to a site. This was a 5-storey apartment block with shops on the ground floor.

We were told that about 10 people were missing and the team set to work on the site. In a short time two bodies were located on the 5th floor and the local fire service were asked to remove them. A search was made of the building with no response.

We were asked if part of the team could search another building, so Brian took Section 1 to the new location and work continued at the apartment block. Section 1 arrived back at about 19:00 with out any success.

The Team was now working at two locations. At the apartment one Section had a positive live female casualty and the team worked hard to release her. Meanwhile, Section 2 had located a further two, possibly live, casualties and was working with local people to release them.

At 23:00 one live female was removed from the rubble by the IRC team and was taken by stretcher to an ambulance; both Sections met up as the other two bodies were removed.

The Team had been working hard all day in 115+ degrees and I decided that the team should return to the base camp to have some food and rest.

Thursday 19th August 1999

On arrival at the site about 00:30 we found that a Belgian Fire Service Rescue team with dogs had made camp next to us. We were asked if we would help search a hospital so a group of four was sent out while the rest of the team had some rest. The team from the hospital arrived back at 03:30 having had no luck and it was decided that they would return in the morning.

The day started at 06:00 with Section 2 going back to the hospital. The rest of the Team returned to the apartment. We arrived at the apartment about 08:25 and were met by a man saying that he had heard a voice in the rubble of a 5 apartment building which was some 500m from the building we were at yesterday. The Team was divided into two smaller units, one to return to yesterday’s site and the second to go and search this new site.

On arrival we found that the building had pancaked on to the street and there was a report of 5 people missing. We now had the help of a second interpreter (Gul) who had volunteered to help. A search of the building was made and a voice heard. A search was made without success. It was decided that the voice that was heard had come from the street at the back of the building. The Belgian dog team arrived on site and asked if they could help, the dogs were put to work without success.

I went back to base camp to send a sitrep and answer some press calls. I returned at about 16:30 to find that all the teams had returned to yesterday’s site as they had been asked to search a building around the corner in a street named Atzlurk Buluari. This building had already been looked at by the Team, but we were asked to do it again.

Rab, Gul and myself left the site with the police to search for some new sites. We visited about 6 but they had already been searched. We arrived at a hospital and asked if they wanted help. We were told “yes” by the army officer so Rab left with the police to return to get the rest of the Team. We then spoke to the Fire Officer in charge who said that no help was needed as the last bodies were about to be removed. The Team arrived to be told to return to base camp.

At base camp we had some food and then Gul and myself went to the Disaster Centre to find some more sites. We were told that all sites had now been searched but were then asked to return to the site on the street named Atzlurk Buluari. On arrival at the site I met the officer from the Istanbul Fire Service. The Team made a search of the building and it was decided that we would standby and let the heavy equipment work until some one was found.

Work stopped at 23:00 as an earthquake warning has been issued and the site and the streets had to be cleared for the safety of the Team. It was decided that we would stay in a grassed area for the night and travel to base camp in the morning.

Friday 20th August 1999

06:15 – waiting for transport to base camp.

Gul got a police van for our transport and we arrived back at camp at about 06:45.

The Turkish Prime Minister arrived at the army base for a short visit and left about one hour later. Part of our Team arrived back at about 18:30 with a report that they had found some more bodies. Some of the workmen wanted to use the bulldozers to clear the site but we said “No”. An argument started between the relatives of the missing people and the workmen so the team came off the site. It was decided that part of the Team would remain and the rest would return to the camp. At approximately 19:30 the rest of the Team returned and everyone had food and refreshments.

Gul and myself went to the Disaster Centre and were told that all the sites in Duzce had been searched and that we should go to Adapazari and help with the search there. The team broke camp and we set off for Adapazari on the bus provided.

Arriving at 23:00 we reported to the Disaster Centre and were sent out with a Dutch dog team to search an apartment block. When we got there we were told that one man and one child were missing, and that the child’s voice had been heard about half an hour before. The Dutch team leader (Patrick) and myself decided to let the dogs work the site before we started digging. The dogs indicated the possibility that there was some one in the rubble.

I decided that our Team should work in pairs, changing every 15/20 minutes, with one pair at the location that the dogs had pinpointed and a second at the back to try to come in from the kitchen.

Saturday 21st August 1999

Patrick and myself were discussing the layout of the building from a drawing made by a local man when the UK Fire Service arrived. All the teams worked through the night using Trapped Person Locator equipment, video probe and the dogs but without success.

It was decided by all the team leaders to stop searching, as there had been no response from the dogs for some time. We travelled back to the UK Fire Service camp to clean and check all the equipment and wait for more sites.

The team was now very tired. Word had just arrived that we were going to Istanbul for a flight home on the next day as the emphasis was now on caring for the survivors and the rescue work was to be wound down. We were told that Cholera and Typhoid had broken out and we were advised to wear masks.

17:30 – The bus and a lorry arrived to take us to the British Embassy in Istanbul.

20:00 – We arrived at the British Embassy, left the kit inside and booked in to a hotel 50 yards away for a shower and a change of clothes. The Team later went back to the Embassy for some food, returning to the hotel at about 23:55.


Sunday 22nd August 1999

The day started with breakfast at 08:30.

The flight was delayed and the bus came for us at 14:30 for a flight at 16:30.

16:30 – The plane left Istanbul, landing at Heathrow airport at 22:00. Ray and I, together with the Fire Service representative, attended a press conference. Once this was over we met up with the rest of our team for a debriefing. The Scottish members had to stay overnight near Heathrow, flying home to Edinburgh/Aberdeen in the morning.

Some of the team are reunited with one of the survivors. Robert Barrie, Brian Davison, Paul Wooster and David Willimot.




John Anderson Team Leader
Ray Gray Team Co-Ordinator
Glen Lloyd Team Medic
John Anderson
Rab Barrie
Dave Dawson
Brian Davison
Helen Farley
Anne Macdonald
Dave Maddock Communications
Stan Robertson
Alan Turner
Paul Wooster

John Anderson
Team Leader

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