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London Tech Week

How technology is helping victims of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria and you should too  

Turkey earthquake technology
Image credits: USGS

Turkey (the Republic of Türkiye) has been hit by a massive natural disaster lately. On February 7th, Tuesday, the southern part of Turkey and Syria witnessed a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8. However, it was followed by a couple of earthquakes measuring 7.6, and 6.0 Richter as well as several aftershocks. 

At the time of writing this article, the quake left more than 15,000 people in Turkey and Syria dead and tens of thousands injured. According to the officials, this is the strongest earthquake in more than 100 years to jolt the region. The US Geological Survey reports that the quake’s focus was 18 km deep. Another report revealed that over 6000 buildings across the 10 provinces of Turkey, including hospitals and other public premises have been brought down. 

Consequently, Turkey announced a Level 4 alert calling for international aid and has already received pledges of aid from several countries, including the US, India, European Union, Russia, and Azerbaijan, as well as international organisations.

In spite of the devastation, Turkey is striving to recover through technology. From hurricanes to tornadoes, earthquakes to wildfires, technology has become an invaluable tool in helping us to cope with these disasters. 

Tech giants to the rescue

Besides a variety of countries, tech giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple plan to donate to Turkey’s disaster relief efforts. Taking to Twitter, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the company would donate to relief and recovery efforts.

In a tweet, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced his company has activated SOS alerts to provide relevant emergency information to those affected. Moreover, Pichai said Google and its employees will support relief efforts. 

Amazon pledged to “donate relief items from our fulfilment centre in Istanbul to affected areas.” The e-commerce giant stated on its website that its donations “will include items like blankets, tents, heaters, food, diapers, baby food, medicine, and other emergency items as victims face not only the damage from the earthquake but frigid winter weather.”

In addition, Amazon stated, “To assist impacted communities, Amazon has activated its disaster relief capabilities and is responding to meet the immediate needs of the Red Crescent.”

Elon Musk’s Twitter

Currently, social media plays a crucial role in several aspects, and rescue operations are no different. People can share information about their location and condition using various platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. 

Unfortunately, Twitter was restricted in Turkey two days after a major earthquake. However, on Wednesday, Musk tweeted, “Twitter has been informed by the Turkish government that access will be reenabled shortly.”

NASA’s FINDER tool  

In the aftermath of a disaster such as an earthquake, NASA’s FINDER (Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response) tool can locate people buried under rubble. 

The tool uses microwave radar technology to detect human heartbeats and breathing, even through 20 feet of solid concrete or rubble, which can help rescuers locate survivors more quickly. The tool was developed in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate. 

FINDER is small, lightweight, and portable and can be used by first responders in various disaster scenarios.

Drone tech for search, rescue, and surveying 

At the same time, Drones can be used in numerous ways to help during an earthquake, such as search and rescue, surveying damage, and delivering supplies. 

Search and rescue operations can be carried out by drones in areas where humans are not allowed. The machines can be equipped with thermal cameras to locate people trapped under debris and carry supplies such as food, water, and medical supplies. 

Damage after an earthquake can also be surveyed with drones. First responders can use these maps to locate trapped people and assess the extent of the damage in the affected area. 

Additionally, drones can deliver supplies, including food, water, medicine, and other essential supplies to earthquake survivors. 

Chennai, India-based drone startup Garuda Aerospace has stepped up during the crisis to help people in rescue operations in Turkey upon request from NDRF (National Disaster Response Force), an Indian specialised force.

As a part of the rescue operation, the startup will deploy its ‘Droni Drone’ for surveillance in the most affected areas and a Kisan Drone to carry payloads that will help transport emergency medicines, supplies, and food for victims.

Satellite communications

During earthquakes, satellite internet can be a vital tool for rescue and relief efforts. It can provide a critical link for communications and coordination between emergency responders, government agencies, and affected communities. 

Satellite internet can also be used to access information and resources, including maps and real-time data on the status of infrastructure and services.

However, in this case, the Turkish government declined Elon Musk’s proposal to send a Starlink satellite broadband service to the country. 

Reportedly, an anonymous senior Turkish official thanked Musk for his offer but said Turkey had enough satellite capacity, and its base stations were working with battery power.

During the Ukraine’s war, Starlink has been the military’s main source of communication. 
Additionally, Deutsche Telekom announced this week that it would make all calls and texts from Germany to Turkey and Syria free until February 15. The largest Turkish diaspora in the world lives in Germany. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the country also hosts the third largest refugee population in the world.

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