200,000 left homeless as Turkey fears epidemics

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The Independent Online
EARTHQUAKE SURVIVORS could be forced to spend a freezing winter under canvas as the authorities struggle to cope with up to 250,000 people left homeless.

The United Nations said yesterday that as many as 200,000 people had been left without shelter, either because their properties were destroyed or so badly damaged they are too dangerous to live in.

However, a brief examination of the numbers of properties believed destroyed suggests this figure may be a considerable underestimate. In the cities of Izmit and Adapazari alone more than 110,000 homes have gone. Officials say they have no real chance of estimating the true number until thorough registers of survivors have been made.

The Turkish government plans to erect pre-fabricated buildings to house the homeless. However, with so many people needing help it could be hard- pushed to put up enough buildings before winter. This is despite the promise of $220m (pounds 140m) from the World Bank.

Minister of State Hasan Gemici appeared to concede as much yesterday. Visiting an emergency tented camp at Izmit, he told The Independent: "The matter of the homeless is a huge problem. We are trying to make sure that people will not have to face the winter in tents. It would be extremely difficult for them, I hope to God it will not happen."

The makeshift tented camps will remain the main source of accommodation for these people for some time. The government will also make available unused tourist facilities.

The plight of the homeless represents the second stage of Turkey's earthquake disaster. While some rescuers are still searching for survivors many crews - particularly the international ones - are going home, certain that no one could still be alive beneath the rubble.

Such crews face a dilemma. Against all the odds, two people were yesterday rescued alive from the ruins of the town of Golcuk, one of the places worst hit by the quake.

One of the two survivors, Adalet Cetinol, a 57-year-old disabled woman, had been buried for 131 hours beneath the rubble without water. Medics have said they would expect no one to live for more than 72 hours.

But increasingly the emergency crews and volunteers that have worked almost without break for six days, realise their main task is recovering bodies rather than finding trapped survivors. "It's too late but we are hoping for a miracle and we will check every village," said one member of a French rescue team searching a collapsed building yesterday on the outskirts of Golcuk.

As more bodies are recovered so there is a race to bury the remains, rotting quickly in the sweltering heat. In Golcuk, the streets have been sprayed with disinfectant and the graves in which the bodies are hastily laid are covered with quicklime. Even so, the stench of putrefying flesh is everywhere and emergency crews cannot work without facemasks.

Doctors say that for the survivors the biggest danger is infectious disease - easily spread in an environment where there are so many homeless and little running water.

"Dysentery and gastroenteritis are possibilities but we are taking measures," said Dr Suat Duranay, of the Health Ministry's crisis centre. "There is speculation of typhoid and cholera but this is untrue, we have found no cases."