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U.S. Troops Help Turkish Quake Victims

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 1999 – American service members are helping Turkey recover from the killer earthquake that killed more than 14,000 people and injured 27,000 others.

U.S. European Command's Operation Avid Response kicked in shortly after the Aug. 17 quake struck about 65 miles east of Istanbul near the town of Izmit. Turkish officials estimate about 600,000 people are homeless. The quake, which registered 7.4 on the Richter scale, damaged more than 54,000 buildings, of which up to 35,000 may have to be demolished.

U.S. military personnel stationed at Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey felt the quake, but no one was injured and no damage occurred, according to officials there. Service members and families stationed at Incirlik and in the west coast Turkish city of Izmir joined the relief effort, donating clothing and other goods and supplies to local Turkish authorities.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe in Naples, Italy, sent a 24-member surgical response team and 27,000 pounds of medical gear to Izmit Aug. 19. The team of doctors, nurses and corpsmen initially worked in a soccer stadium providing immediate trauma care; the team moved offshore when U.S. naval ships reached the area.

An Air Force flight surgeon from England deployed to provide immediate care to casualties. European Command also deployed a three-person medical assessment team to Istanbul to assess future medical needs.

An Air Force team of 31 medical and engineering specialists arrived in Izmit Aug. 20 to survey the wreckage and assess local needs for military aid. The team included specialists trained in water and structural systems, construction and radio communications.

Three Sixth Fleet ships carrying 2,100 Marines and 22 helicopters of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit remain on the scene. The USS Kearsarge and USS Gunston Hall arrived Aug. 22. The USS Ponce arrived Aug. 24. The ships are equipped with 631 hospital beds, six operating and five x- ray rooms staffed by eight doctors, three dentists and 88 medical corpsmen.

European Command also sent 10,000 surgical gloves and masks, three shipments of relief supplies and tents capable of sheltering about 95,000 people.

Marines from the Kearsarge were using CH-46 helicopters to set up tents to protect medical supplies, and they help erect the first of 2,300 family-sized tents to house some of the homeless in the port of Golcuk, European Command officials said Aug. 30. A recent news report placed the quake death toll at 378 in Golcuk, mostly Turkish naval officers and sailors at Golcuk navy base. More than 800 people are still missing at the one-mile-square base.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLt. Jeff Bledsoe, an operating room nurse with the Naples-based Surgical Response Team, provides medical attention to a Turkish girl injured in the Aug. 17 earthquake. The 22-person medical team operated from tents in Izmit, Turkey and treated earthquake survivors in support of Operation Avid Response. Photo by JO1 Robert Benson, U.S. Navy   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Commander (Medical Corps) Bruce Potenza, a Reservist on active duty, examines surgical instruments on board the USS Kearsarge. Potenza, whose specialty is trauma and critical care, was activated from Fleet Hospital Unit 23 at the Madison, Wisc. Naval Reserve Center. The Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group left Spain bound for Izmit, Turkey to render humanitarian assistance to victims of the recent earthquake. Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Seth Rossman, U.S. Navy.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCommander Mike Barea, Air Operations Officer for Amphibious Squadron Two on board the USS Kearsarge confers with Turkish, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps air traffic controllers at the Turkish Naval Air Station near Izmit, Turkey. The Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit are in Izmit to aid victims of the recent earthquake. Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Seth Rossman, U.S. Naval Reserve.   
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageLance Corporal Phillip Bunch, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), teaches Turkish workers at the naval base in Topel how to heat Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs). Marines and local workers unloaded more than 1,000 tents that will be used to house people left homeless by the massive earthquake that struck Western Turkey on August 17, 1999. Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Seth Rossman, U.S. Naval Reserve   
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