Sunday, June 23, 2024

Turkey’s post-quake relief races against winter


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ERCIS, Turkey: A week after a powerful earthquake in southeast Turkey, hordes of survivors roamed the streets past devastated homes, some complaining their families still had no tents with winter closing in.

Today, the official death toll crept up to 582. The town of Ercis was worst hit by the 7.2 magnitude quake, with 455 people killed. The last person dug out of the rubble alive was a 13-year-old boy in the early hours yesterday, and hopes of finding more survivors were all but gone.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told a news conference in Van on Saturday that search and rescue operations at the last five sites in Ercis would be halted in the evening.

Under fire for a slow response in the early days of the disaster, state authorities have declared tents will only be given to families once their home has been deemed uninhabitable.

Overseeing the relief efforts, Atalay said 35,000 tents had been handed out so far, and there was no shortage. But people have complained distribution was chaotic, tents were looted, and some were sold by profiteers on the black market.

”From now on, we are determining the need for tents according to our nightly visits and not according to citizens demands,” Atalay said.

Atalay earlier said the emergency needs for all the affected — at least in the main urban areas — would be met by Saturday night, though supplying outlying villages would take longer.

For people still waiting for the state to help they seemed empty words, after spending a sixth bitterly cold night under whatever shelter they had made for themselves, and accusations of mismanagement and unfairness of handing out tents were rife.

”They give tents to supporters of the government party. Village leaders hand out tents to their friends and relatives. Public servants get the best tents,” 60-year-old Kahraman Kaya told Reuters, tramping the streets of Ercis with other grim-faced, red-eyed and unshaven men.

Relief agencies have established tent cities on the edge of a town that was once home to nearly 100,000.

The state says it has enough tents to meet the people’s needs. The trouble is the people say they need more tents, and the authorities say far less need tents than they think.(UNI)


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