Quake victims in tents battle freezing cold

ISTANBUL

Photo: AA
Quake victims in Van are grappling with severe weather conditions as the temperature decreased to seven degrees below zero and snow covered much of the region over the weekend, sparking questions over how locals will survive a tough winter in tents after news reports coming out of the region said that a 6-year-old child died on Saturday after he caught cold in a tent.
The weather is biggest challenge for locals in Van and Erci?, which were hit by two separate quakes, the first one on Oct. 23 registering a magnitude of 7.2, and the second on Nov. 9 with a magnitude of 5.7, which left thousands of people homeless in the face of freezing cold. The “white death” is the nightmare of locals as the temperature has already dropped to seven degrees below zero. People dare not even think of how cold it could be in January.
Deniz Olgun, a disabled six-year old child who lived in Van’s Çelebiba? area, died from pneumonia on Saturday after he caught cold in the tent in which he had been living for 18 days with his family following the first quake. Nevzat Çiçek, a journalist, reported the incident after coming into contact with the child’s father, who stated that the family was living in a nylon tent and had great difficulties in staying warm.

Considering the fact that many people still live in nylon tents, similar stories could be coming from the area in the weeks to come as the weather is getting worse in the region.

Officials such as Deputy Prime Minister Be?ir Atalay, who spoke with journalists on Saturday, say they are contemplating other measures to provide for more sustainable shelter for survivors in the face of the deadly cold as snow has covered the provincial center of Van and its districts, especially Erci?, where thousands still live in tents.

The government is planning to shelter as many victims as possible in state-run hotels and social facilities in the region, at least until spring, Atalay said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an on Saturday stated that government will work to reconstruct Van and Erci?, which was most damaged in the disaster, as he paid a visit to quake-stricken Van, days after a second quake hit the city on Nov. 9 that left more than 30 people dead, sparking panic among locals who have been trying to handle with post-disaster trauma in the face of freezing weather conditions.

In his address to local residents who survived the disaster but who have become homeless after their homes collapsed or sustained fatal damage, Erdo?an made a promise that the government will have the construction of new homes completed before next August and said Van’s status will be that of a metropolitan municipality by government decree. He dismissed calls by residents in Erci? to make the district a separate province.

Erdo?an stated that Van will be a metropolitan municipality in 2014 and added that the change in its status will make a remarkable contribution to the development of the city. He resisted calls on altering of Erci?’s status by pointing out that the government will make huge investments in the district as they aim to transform it into a modern district similar to Bak?rköy and Kad?köy in ?stanbul, which are seen as symbols of prosperity and wealth in Turkey’s largest city.

When a district becomes a province, it gets more money from the central government, which means a great number of people across the country call upon their officials to have their district turned into a province in order to speed up the development of that area.

Turkey, in urgent need of tents, on Friday notified all countries that had offered their assistance in dealing with the situation in the aftermath of the earthquakes that it would accept tents and prefabricated homes to house survivors for the winter.


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