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Wake Up Call


Monday, February 6th, around 04.00 was a wake up call for the Kurdish Region of Iraq when one of the 42 earthquake aftershocks emanating from the Turkish epicenter hit our region particularly Erbil, a city of towers each competing for height. The aftershock hit us with the force of 7.3. I happened to be in Erbil, on the tenth floor of a building that began to rock like a drowning boat. Pictures fell off the wall as the entire structure shuddered and shook. I remember wondering how far a building can bend before it breaks, and for how long one is able to breathe when buried under rubble. As those thoughts entered my mind, I picked up my feet and headed for the stairwell. In the foyer, the magnificent several meter high chandelier looked as if it had been used by Tarzan as a launching pad. The hotel staff were busy posting picks of the swinging chandelier on social media whilst we the guests were huddled outside in the freezing cold. We stood outside for two hours. There was no crisis response, I asked the Duty and Security Managers to provide slippers and blankets and offer tea and water. Slippers appeared. That was it. No one knew how to respond because “Earthquakes don't happen in Iraq.”

Back up in the village, another two smaller shockwaves hit causing objects and furniture to move around, but thankfully no other damage. We were however instructed to leave the houses should another one happen as “they will fold like a pack of cards” there being no building safety standards or regulations. A further fear emerged, that water pouring into the Mosul Dam (really a lake) from Turkey had the possibility of leaving two thirds of Mosul under water, heading down to Baghdad where it could leave between a third and a half of the city flooded. The Government responded to these fears by closing government offices, and educational services until Sunday February 12th. Personally, I think they responded to the deep cold and sleet knowing that no one would get out of bed for a few days, it being too cold. A few of us sat processing the events, ranging from total apathy as “nothing will happen in Iraq” to fear, anxiety and stress from a previously unknown enemy which is high at the moment. We are spending considerable time with our student body working through these shakings and establishing basic protocols of behavior and personal crisis response. We contacted the local fire department hoping to receive Crisis Response instructions. Turns out that they know how to use a fire hose but not much more. We contacted health providers inquiring about their equipment for crisis and disaster management. They have nothing because “these things don't happen in Iraq”.



Photographs taken from the internet. Source unknown.




Thanks to God, thanks to your amazing support and an incredible core team here on the ground, we have become crisis responders of sorts, providing aid post fire in Shariya camp over a three month period, building homes for those tents destroyed by fire, and a year later building an additional 53 homes inside Shariya Camp.

We have become a source of provision, a source for solutions. One that is recognized by the government, and one to whom they turn with the question “Can you?”

We are now thinking ahead, we are thinking beyond that which we know to the day when the full force of a natural disaster directly hits our region. We are opening an Emergency Disaster Response Fund in order to purchase and store equipment such as stretchers, oxygen bottles, protective clothing, helmets, shield and goggles, dust masks, emergency lights, flashlights, radio, batteries, prescription medicine, infusions, first aid, food, dry and canned goods, water. The list is long and detailed and of course costly to purchase.

If your heart should be with us to help us build up a storehouse for the day of disaster we thank you in advance. We have heard the alarm bells ring and we have become very aware of that which could be upon us as tragically happened in Turkey.

May we each possess the wisdom to discern times and seasons and to know how to respond.



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