Türkiye’s Earthquake Survivors Grapple with Winter in Temporary Shelters

After enduring the aftermath of twin devastating earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye, claiming the lives of over 50,000 individuals, survivors in the affected regions are preparing for the onset of winter as they eagerly await the transition to permanent residences.

Official records indicate that the two powerful tremors, occurring hours apart, led to the collapse or severe damage of more than 200,000 buildings nationwide.

Assurances from the government promise the construction of 850,000 new units, intended for both residential and commercial purposes. However, concerns linger among locals regarding potential delays in these construction endeavours.

“Reconstruction will undoubtedly be a lengthy process. Thousands of displaced individuals have sought refuge in temporary housing comprised of prefabricated containers,” shared Seref Atli, a retired driver from Antakya in the southern Hatay province, speaking to journalists.

Referring to the temporary settlements erected by the government post-disaster, these ‘container towns’ provided accommodation for approximately 578,000 earthquake survivors, as per data disclosed by Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority in late August.

Atli, residing in one of these container towns, apprehensively anticipates that many of his neighbours might have to endure the winter within these temporary shelters.

“We are eagerly awaiting new homes. Meanwhile, our struggle for survival continues,” he expressed, emphasizing the pressing issues of water scarcity and heating as winter approaches.

Echoing similar concerns, Numan Ermis, another survivor residing in a container camp in Antakya, conveyed worries about relying on gas and electric heaters, particularly challenging for the children.

While some containers have been designed to withstand winter conditions, most are inadequately insulated. “Heating our shelter won’t be easy in severe winter conditions,” Ermis highlighted.

Furthermore, health worries persist due to unhygienic living conditions and the release of cancer-causing asbestos from the debris even nine months after the earthquakes.

Asbestos, once extensively used in construction, is now recognized as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

“Residents in the earthquake-affected area are susceptible to illnesses like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), silicosis, and cancer due to materials such as asbestos, silica, concrete, sand, and stone surfacing from the demolition,” stated the Turkish Health and Social Services Workers’ Trade Union.

“Despite the passage of time, numerous excavators and trucks are still active, and the ensuing dust is a constant presence around us,” Atli remarked concerning ongoing construction activities.

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