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Turkey: Online Relief Efforts for Van's Earthquake Victims

Eastern Turkey was hit by a large earthquake of magnitude 7.2 yesterday. The earthquake, whose epicentre was about 16 km north of Van province, devastated the area where many buildings were demolished with many people buried under the ruins.

As the government of Turkey started the official relief efforts, many Turkish citizens both in the country and abroad showed interest in helping those effected on the ground. As a result, within a couple of hours after the earthquake several different campaigns were launched on social networks to help with rescue and relief operations.

One interesting campaign that quickly grabbed the attention of many on social media networks was “EvimEvindir”. The campaign was started by Turkish journalist Ahmet Tezcan when he declared on Twitter [tr] that he was ready to welcome a family which was left homeless due to the quake to his home:

Vanlı bir aileye evimi açmaya hazirim. Kamu kuruluşları bunu da organize etmeli!

I am ready to open my [door and] home to a family from Van. Public institutions should organise this as well!

Ahmet Tezcan continued to promote the idea and soon another Turkish journalist Erhan Çelik started promoting the campaign strongly. In a couple of hours, hundreds of tweets and thousands of e-mails were received by the two journalists regarding the campaign and Erhan Çelik mentioned his thanks for the attention [tr]:

Mail kutumda 17 bin mail var. Bunlardan ilgili olanları İstanbul Valiliğine iletiyorum. İlginize depremzedeler adına çok teşekkürler!

There are 17,000 e-mails in my inbox. I am transferring interested parties to Governorship of Istanbul. On behalf of earthquake victims; thanks a lot for your interest!

Soon two new hashtags “#EvimEvindir” [“#MyHouseIsYourHouse” in Turkish] and “#EvimEvindirVan” spread in Turkey and a new website for the campaign was set up at www.evimevindir.com. Ahmet Tezcan reported that Governorship of Istanbul had stepped in to help the campaign:

İstanbul Valimiz H.Avni Mutlu #EvimEvindirVan kampanyasindan haberdar edildi. Çok sevindi. Gerekenin yapilmasi icin talimat verecektir!

The Governor of Istanbul H. Avi Mutlu has been informed of #EvimEvindirVan campaign. He was very happy. He will be giving instructions to carry out what’s necessary.

According to the campaign's website, the Governorship of Istanbul is now the coordinator of the campaign to locate and connect families from Istanbul to families in the earthquake zone.

Another campaign that was launched on Twitter and gained support via the hashtag “#HaydiGsmciler” [“#ComeOnGsmOps” in Turkish] called on the three leading GSM operators in Turkey, namely Turkcell, Vodafone Turkey, and Avea, to provide free minutes to its customers in the earthquake zone, as it is expected that many victims who were buried alive under the rubble would attempt to use their cell phones to contact for help. Journalist Erhan Çelik avidly promoted this campaign, posting [tr]:

GSM şirketleri de üzerine düşeni yapsın! Deprem bölgesinde kontörlü hatlar ücretsiz olsun, mağdurlar rahatça konuşsun! #HaydiGsmciler

GSM Operators should do their part as well! Prepaid lines in earthquake zone should be free [of any charge for transactions], so that victims can talk freely! #HaydiGsmciler

Soon after the hashtag was launched, all three leading GSM operators declared that they would be providing free minutes to their customers in Van, which had suffered losses due to earthquake. Both Turkcell and Avea reported [tr] this news through their official Twitter accounts respectively as follows:

Van'da bulunan ön ödemeli müşterilerimize her yönü arayabilecekleri 100 dk. ücretsiz konuşma süresi ve 100 kısa mesaj (SMS) yüklenecektir

Our prepaid customers in Van will be provided with 100 free minutes and 100 short messages (SMS) available to use for all calls.

Van'da yaşanan felaket nedeniyle bölgede bulunan tüm Avealı'lara her yöne kullanabilecekleri 100dk konuşma ve 100 sms tanımlanmıştır #van

Due to the disaster that occurred in Van, all Avea customers in the regions are given 100 free minutes and 100 SMS available to use for all calls. #van

A few hours after the earthquake, several activist bloggers created a blog, named “Yalnız Değilsin Van” [“You are not Alone Van” in Turkish], to provide information on contact and coordination points for relief efforts in the earthquake zone. Heavily promoted in the blogosphere and Twitter, the blog describes itself as:

This page has been created to keep track of, gather and post updates on the relief efforts towards the 2011 Van Earthquake, including transportation of aid, coordination numbers and a continuously updated list of goods and equipment in demand

The blog contains information in both Turkish and English and also has a Facebook page called: “Van’la Dayanışma” [“Solidarity with Van” in Turkish].

One last addition to web-based help to relief efforts for the victims of the Van earthquake came from Google in the form of Google Person Finder which was activated in Turkish. Zeynep Tüfekçi reported this as:

Google Person Finder now up in Turkish for the Van earthquake: http://turkey-2011.googlepersonfinder.appspot.com/

Thumbnail image is a screenshot from yalnizdegilsinvan.wordpress.com.

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