Rebuilding prioritized as survivors are without shelter
Turkish president's emphasis on the priority of constructing new buildings for earthquake victims in the shortest possible time has been subjected to criticism by those who say the urgency should be placed in providing immediate shelter for the homeless survivors.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that their objective is "to complete the construction of enough residences within a year to provide quality and safe housing for the victims in the entire earthquake zone."
Erdogan also resorted to a desperate measure of halting higher education and ordering eviction of university students from their dormitories across the country to make room for homeless quake victims.
Fatih Altayli of mainstream Haberturk said on Thursday:
"After the earthquake the government is once again preparing to do what it is most capable of: Contracts. Maybe they want to rebuild the cities devastated by the earthquake and to wipe out of memory the delays in rescue operations by constructing residences as fast as possible. However, they started saying 'We'll build residences' while even temporary shelters, tents, container homes have not been set up yet and while people are still trying to survive in the streets."
The Turkish Psychiatry Association recently said in its report that as of Sunday, six days after the earthquake struck, there is still no drinking water and electricity in the city of Antioch, one of the worst hit settlements in the earthquake zone, and neither sufficient sheltering for the victims.
"Makeshift shelters have been set up by covering pergolas with nylon sheet rolls, or people have taken refuge in vehicles," the report says. "It gets very cold because of severe winter conditions, particularly at night, and the situation both diminishes the hopes of surviving victims under the rubble and poses a threat of freezing to death for the homeless."
"A serious food and water crisis could have emerged if there were not aid arriving from outside. Shops, pharmacies and aid lorries are being plundered due to insufficient security measures. Chaos and uncertainty prevail in the city. The aid cannot be distributed effectively because of security concerns."
It goes on emphasizing once again the urgency of providing shelter:
"The chill, rain and storms create a strong risk of common cold outbreak for the victims under the rubble and for the survivors who are forced to spend the nights without any shelter. It has been observed that the survivors are neither able to go back into their houses, nor are there enough tents and container homes for accommodation."
Two million left homeless by the earthquake
The Wall Street Journal used the headline "Turkey faces acute homelessness crisis after earthquakes" on Wednesday and defined the situations as "one of the world's worst homelessness emergencies" as it noted that at least two million people have reportedly lost their homes.
"Turkey is dealing with one of the world's worst homelessness emergencies following earthquakes that devastated swaths of the country, with the government scrambling to provide shelter to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. More than 41,200 died in Turkey and Syria from the Feb. 6 earthquakes. At least two million people in Turkey, a nation of 85 million, have lost their homes, experts estimate."
Many taking shelter in tent camps, on the other hand, are still deprived of basic services.
The camps erected by the Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD) and Turkish Red Crescent in the port city of Iskenderun in Hatay province have shortages in electricity, drinking water, heating and toilets, Mezopotamya News Agency reported on Thursday.
Photo credit: Adnan Bilen (Mezopotamya News Agency)