Turkey earthquake: Why are people being asked to avoid phone calls in wake of disaster?

A series of tweets by AFAD, Turkey's Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, urged citizens to avoid making calls except in vital situations

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File photo
File photo

By Web Desk

Published: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 7:37 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Feb 2023, 2:36 PM

At least 1,000 people were killed, and more than 5,000 people injured, in a magnitude-7.8 earthquake that struck central Turkey on Monday. The disaster was the deadliest to hit the country since 1939, President Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that 2,818 buildings had collapsed as a result. While at least 912 people were killed in Turkey, at least 237 died in Syria, Syrian state-run news agency SANA reported – citing a Health Ministry official – with 639 injured so far.

In the wake of the earthquake, and the sharply rising death toll, a curious phenomenon has come to light: authorities in Turkey have asked residents to refrain from making phone calls.

A series of tweets by AFAD, Turkey's Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, urged citizens to avoid making calls except in vital situations. Another tweet urged people to keep their phone calls as short as possible, while a third asked them to stick to SMS and internet-based messaging software.

The advisory was also re-tweeted by Süleyman Soylu, the country's Minister of Interior.

In the event of a natural disaster, it is common for panicked survivors to attempt to contact loved ones and let them know they are safe. Phone communications are also a useful way of helping locate the missing and mobilising relief efforts. So, why are authorities advising residents against making them?

Here are 3 reasons why making phone calls during an earthquake may not be the best idea:

1. Texts are the more practical option

In the wake of a natural disaster, floods of calls from panicked survivors are likely to overwhelm phone lines, meaning a phone call is more likely to experience network congestion. Sending a text is therefore a more practical option, as it has a better chance of getting through.

2. Public safety

Too many calls can overload the communications grid and jam phone lines, making it harder for first responders to get to the injured, or those trapped, as quickly as possible. Non-urgent communications will disrupt life-saving phone calls from coming through, meaning that limiting calls unless they are absolutely necessary will help the safety of those around you.

3. Saving battery

Calls use more power than texts; if you are running low on power in the event of a natural disaster, you'll want to save battery for when you need it the most.

What are the other options?

Aside from texting, there are also other options available to people looking to contact loved ones and let them know they're safe. AKUT, Turkey's primary search and rescue organisation, has developed an app that will allow people to text others with their whereabouts and situation, known as Güvendeyim (I'm safe).

Photo: akut.org.tr
Photo: akut.org.tr

Another option is contacting others in your area via Bluetooth, with apps such as Bridgefy that allow you to send offline messages to friends and family when you don't have access to Internet.


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