Quake Devastates Van; Bilkent Students Reach Out to Help


Van, a city in southeastern Turkey on the shore of Lake Van, was hit by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake last Sunday, October 23. The quake left behind a death toll that has been rising sharply (596 according to the latest report), in addition to thousands injured and hundreds of thousands on the streets, homeless and dispossessed of their belongings.

News agencies have given various accounts regarding the extent of the damage suffered by Van's city center and the neighboring towns and villages. It is reported that Erciş, a town northeast of Lake Van and north of Van's city center, has experienced the most destruction. According to some news agencies, there are several villages where not a single house has survived the shock. Great difficulties reaching smaller towns and villages continue to exist, it is also reported.

Images of apartment buildings that have collapsed like sandcastles, and of adults and children trapped under piles of rubble while rescuers struggle to free them, depict the destruction and devastation the earthquake has brought about.

The photographs also illustrate another distressing reality: the fact that since the 1999 Gölcük earthquake, Turkey has not progressed as far along the road of earthquake awareness, disaster preparedness and emergency management as might have been hoped. Whether existing legislation is inadequate, or whether the problem is one of a failure in enforcing the law, are questions we must ask, especially in view of the prospect of nuclear power stations being constructed in response to Turkey's energy demands.

Today, however, the harsh winter of the east is knocking on Van's door. The situation may still worsen, and swiftly. Several news agencies are warning that the possibility of an epidemic is now a real threat.

The people of Van are in need of a helping hand more than ever. Bilkent University, its faculty, staff and especially its students have proven themselves ready to do their share to answer this need.

The student body quickly organized itself with the assistance of the Office of the Dean of Students, and on Monday, October 24, began collecting goods including blankets, clothing (especially winter clothing), dry and canned foods, baby food, heaters, hygiene products and other such items desperately needed in Van. By Wednesday afternoon, nearly 900 boxes of aid - literally, a truck full of goods - were on their way to Van. The last lot of supplies was sent by noon on Friday, October 28.

This was thanks in large part to a group of students who sorted and organized thousands of items, preparing them for a journey of 1,250 km. The enterprise was made possible by the dedicated efforts of Alican Pancaroğlu, Aynur Özlem, Ayşe Sezgek, Aytek Gül, Beril Yalçın, Besra Parlak, Betül Urgancı, Burak Şahin, Burcu Naz Kamalı, Bünyamin Çiftçi, Cemile Atalay, Ceren Taşan, Enes Yıldırım, Engin Deda, Ezgi Demircioğlu, Ezgi Kaya, Fatma Özpınar, İdris Çetin, Kübra Eren, Mehmet Gürel, Mert Ilgın, Mustafa Karaer, Mustafa Tektaş, Nartan Cankat Aksu, Nazan Günbükü, Neris Bage, Nuray Özdemir, Onur Hartavi, Ozan Mullaoğlu, Ömer Özdemir, Özge Uysal, Özlem Mutlu, Semih Dölek, Sercan Aksoy, Sevinç Koç and Sinem Meleknur Sertel.  

In the Department of Business Information Management, students showed their support for the people of Van by contributing funds to purchase a 50-square-meter tent. The students themselves took the tent to the Kızılay (Red Crescent) trailer truck to be sent to Van for the earthquake victims.

In addition, on Thursday, October 27, a Kızılay mobile blood donation center was set up in front of the Faculty of Science and hundreds of Bilkenters lined up to donate blood needed for the injured survivors of the earthquake.

The university has also initiated a monetary aid campaign for the victims of the Van earthquake. Between October 26 and November 25, 2011, donations may be made to the following bank accounts:


Account Owner: Bilkent Üniversitesi
Account: 88877387
IBAN: TR77 0006 7010 0000 0088 8773 87


Account Owner: Bilkent Üniversitesi
Account: 6298739
IBAN: TR47 0006 2000 3930 0006 2987 39


İŞ BANKASI Bilkent Şubesi
Account Owner: Bilkent Üniversitesi
Account: 0331560
IBAN: TR98 0006 4000 0014 2760 3315 60