Istanbul hosts largest medical evacuation drill to counter earthquake chaos

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Healthcare workers joined search and rescue teams as the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul hosted what authorities dubbed the country’s largest medical evacuation exercise against a possible earthquake.

In Heybeliada, one of the Princes’ Islands off the city, teams from the Directorate of Health, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the National Medical Relief Teams (UMKE) have simulated an emergency response. Helicopters and rescue ships accompanied them as they evacuated “the injured” off the island, taking them to hospitals in the city.

In accordance with a predetermined scenario, crews extracted the injured from the ruins of houses on the island, providing first aid before taking them to a sea ambulance and then to a hospital in the Kartal district of Istanbul. Some of the “wounded” were transported to an evacuation ship, while those in critical condition were airlifted from the ship.

An evacuation boat approaches the evacuation ship during the exercise, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 24, 2022. (AA PHOTO)

Speaking about the exercise, Associate Professor Kenan Ahmet Türkdoğan, who heads the Istanbul Health Directorate’s Emergency Health Services Department, said 12 state agencies and 300 people worked in the exercise which “reflects the success of coordination in such cases”. “It was a simulation of how the first response should be and how different agencies can coordinate evacuation and medical efforts. It is the largest exercise of its kind and involved all angles of a scenario of earthquake, from responding to minor injuries to transferring people with worsening health conditions to other health facilities,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday.

Türkdoğan noted that they started the exercise half an hour before the scheduled time to test the readiness of the participants and to demonstrate how accomplished the response units were. He also said there was excellent communication between the various crews, from search and rescue teams to paramedics. “We also tested the success of our evacuation ship and managed to quickly evacuate the injured,” he added.

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