On 08-16-99 Turkey was hit by a 7.4 earthquake. Over 50,000 were confirmed dead. Istanbuls population is approximately 12,000,000.
SAR Coordinator/ Dog Handler Harry Oakes Jr. with SAR dog Valorie responded to the disaster arriving in Istanbul on 08-20-99.
Working with teams of various nationalities, Mr. Oakes and Valorie searched buildings in Adapazari destroyed by the quake. Enduring heat of more than 100 degrees, crumbling and unstable buildings, poisonous snakes, and a pervasive stench of death, Mr. Oakes found 2 live victims in this area and 12 dead. Working around broken glass, sharp metal, and downed power lines the team searched through the collapsed buildings and found a 14-year-old girl and a 50-year-old woman alive. The girl's right leg had to be severed in order to rescue her from the building.
Mr. Oakes searched Avcilar City west of Istanbul inside 8 unstable buildings just prior to bulldozing and found 4 dead victims. A few days later while searching the town of Degirmendere the team found 2 more live victims who died during the recovery operations. Numerous more dead victims were found because of Harry and Val's search efforts. While working with teams from Japan, Turkey, England, Holland, Germany, USA, and South Africa a common bond was built among the search teams. A bond to help those in need without politics or egos - everyone was there for one purpose only - to help these folks.
After many days of searching, Mr. Oakes then turned his attentions to the mental health issues associated with a disaster of this magnitude. He performed Critical Incident Stress Management and Debriefings (CISM/D) with other teams and with the children who had lost their homes and families.
During the last few days he spent in Turkey, Mr. Oakes met with the media to stress before, during, and after quake preparedness and education. As well, he met with government officials to re-educate them on what it takes to use the ICS system and outside rescue resources effectively. Mr. Oakes also worked with local government and citizens to set up a search dog program in Turkey. We now have three dog teams in training for the Turkish AKUT teams.
International K-9 Search and Rescue Services
Click on this link to view the Report on 11/99 Mission to Turkey.