Everyone is aware of the terrible earthquake that hit Nepal just
before noon on Saturday. Since then there have been hundreds of aftershocks
adding to the death toll and destruction. This is clearly a human tragedy
on a scale it is virtually impossible to imagine and while most of us are limited
to donating money, which is needed in the billions, thankfully there are others
who are able to give practical help.
AKUT, Turkey’s search and rescue volunteers
A courageous team of men and women volunteers from AKUT, Turkey’s Search and
Rescue Association, are now in Nepal, where they have joined other teams
and organisations from across the world to help the people of Nepal.
Over the coming days and weeks they will be risking their own lives to save others
but they will also be discovering those who were not so fortunate.
Fethiye’s branch of AKUT
Fethiye also has a branch of AKUT volunteers, who are always ready
24 hours a day. Although none of the Fethiye team have gone to Nepal,
every year they take risks to rescue adventurers who have become
lost or injured on Fethiye’s remote mountains and trails, but they will
also put their lives on the line to provide vital front line support in
the event of a forest fire or an earthquake.
To the people of Fethiye it is of no surprise that their centre is named
after Kamil Nezih Okuş, a man who himself played a life saving role
when Fethiye experienced a disaster of its own nearly sixty years ago.
Fethiye’s own tragedy
Fethiye was a small, sleepy coastal town in 1957 with a population of no
more the 3,000. Their quiet world abruptly changed on the night of
24th April and the morning of 25th April. Following a series of earth tremors, residents were told
to leave their homes and not return.
Foresight of one man
This was mainly due to the foresight of Fethiye’s governor, Kamil Nezih Okuş.
As a consequence, when a 6.2 quake struck at 21:17 and the following morning,
at 04:28, a 7.1 tremor hit the town there was far less loss of life than there
would have otherwise been. Although the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks
destroyed many buildings, very few people were killed.
58 years to the day
Fethiye Times had already scheduled a commemoration of the mercy mission
by the British Royal Navy and the catastrophe in Nepal makes the story even
more poignant. Three days after the earthquake, on April 28th 1957,
a D-Class destroyer, HMS Dainty, arrived from Cyprus where the ship was based.
It anchored in the Fethiye gulf, bringing tents, blankets, water purification
tablets and medical supplies ashore for the townspeople.
A unique record
Some of the senior officers accompanied the equipment and supplies to
the town and amongst them was an official photographer who recorded
One of the crew was a young man called David Parker who was doing
his military service. While he was not allowed on shore himself, he was
able to observe the town from a distance and clearly remembered the event.
He was given copies of the photographs, which he filed away until 2011
when his neighbours, Mike and Lynn Pitchers, told him that they had
bought a house near Fethiye.
He still had the photos
Parker retrieved the photos he had kept for 54 years and gave them to his
neighbours, requesting that they be used in Fethiye as a way of remembering
those difficult days, the bravery of the residents and the help brought to the
beleaguered population by the British Navy.
The impact of the quake on the town had inevitable consequences but today
Fethiye is now a thriving town. But this story also comes as a timely reminder
how people can support each other at times like this.
The municipality have used the collection of photographs from time to time,
as part of an educational programme, to reinforce the importance of being
prepared, should there ever be another earthquake.
An important reminder
A few years ago Fethiye Municipality translated their useful booklet
into English. It clearly explains how best to prepare for and survive
To make a donation to AKUT, visit the link here.