Disaster response Turkey

Izmit Earthquake

Published on Aug 17, 1999 02:00 AM  -  Updated on Jul 09, 2019 05:10 PM
TSF deployed for the first time to emergency relief in the aftermath of the Izmit earthquake in north-western Turkey.

Contexte: Earthquake
Start date: 17/08/1999
End date: 28/08/1999
Areas of intervention: Marmara
Activities: Support to coordination


On 17th August 1999, at 3am, a violent earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale rocked north-western Turkey and was felt as far away as Ankara.

The tremors damaged and destroyed thousands of homes and infrastructure. The official human toll is 17,480 deaths and 23,781 injured, with about 10,000 people missing and hundreds of thousands homeless. The large number of casualties is due to the time the earthquake occurred as the majority of people were sleeping at the time of the earthquake.


For the first time, Télécoms sans Frontières deployed following a natural disaster and decided to intervene in the heart of a disaster zone.

Upon arrival, TSF went to the epicentre of the earthquake, where the French Civil Security had been deployed for under 12 hours.

Support to coordination

TSF's first mission was to restore the telephone link between the two command posts in Yalova and Gölcük.

After a quick evaluation, TSF identified that the mobile relays were not affected and that the population could communicate despite heavy use of the network. Teams therefore focused efforts on the coordination of relief, enabling communication between search and rescue teams’ command posts.

At the request of the Colonel commanding the French detachment, TSF participated in the coordination of French relief. Every day, a member of TSF accompanied a relief team to the sites of wreckage, equipped with a satellite line.

Every hour, sometimes more if needed, the emergency manager needed to call his command post for a situation update – for example requests for specific equipment, number of people likely to be under rubble, the work of the dog-handling S&R team.

In these situations, every second is precious and the support provided by TSF was invaluable. Telecoms Sans Frontières' relief work in Turkey demonstrated the importance of telecommunications in saving lives.