In the early morning of 20 July the earth shook in Batken, in southern Kyrgyzstan. Time seemed to stand still for the 1550 inhabitants of Kan village. They could hear wood breaking, roofs tumbling and bricks falling down.
'The most important is not to panic in such situations' says Saddat Sattarova from Save the Children. 'You have to reach as quickly as possible a safe place nearby like crouch below a table or hide under a staircase to avoid being hit by bricks or part of the furniture. Once the tremors stop you have to leave the house carefully. All villagers need to assemble in a predefined place where they have stored food, water and blankets. Adults have to look out for the children and make sure they stay with them. If somebody is left behind a small group of well trained people tries to rescue them. Others call the professional search and rescue team of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in the meantime in case their help is needed. This is what we taught them last year in the framework of DIPECHO, the Disaster preparedness program funded by the European Commission. ' explains Sattarova, responsible for the Coordination of this project.
The training was conducted not only among the adult population of 21 villages most at risk in Kyrgyzstan, but also school children actively joined and participated in the training. 13-year old Ruslan was among them and put his training into practice on the morning of the earthquake. "First, of course, I got scared, but then I remembered the children from the summer camp staying in our village kindergarten. These children came here from the city and never had such training as we did at school. They must be really scared. Therefore me and my friends decided to check on them. The building of the kindergarten was severely damaged, so we evacuated the children from the building and tried to calm them down. It was fun, we felt like we are doing something important. And next day, we helped to fix the tents for the families whose house had been destroyed. Adults usually do not take us seriously, but this time they were thanking us", he recalls.
'The evacuation measures developed by our implementing partners, like Save the Children, together with the villagers are very simple and straight forward. But in disaster prone areas like Kyrgyzstan they reduce the impact of natural disasters on lives and livelihoods' explains Srdan Stojanovic, who works for the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department in Central Asia. 'In the village of Kan 410 houses out of 470 have been damaged but no lives were lost'.
ECHO Regional Information Officer - Amman