Published: 15:24, November 20, 2023 | Updated: 17:50, November 20, 2023
Türkiye's quake survivors yearn for housing as winter sets in
By Xinhua

A boy plays in a shelter in the quake-hit city of Antakya, Türkiye, Nov 17, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

ANTAKYA, Türkiye - Nine months after the twin devastating earthquakes struck southern Türkiye and killed more than 50,000 people, survivors in the quake-affected areas are looking forward to moving into permanent residence as winter arrives.

According to official figures, more than 200,000 buildings either collapsed or were heavily damaged across the country during the two powerful tremors that occurred several hours apart.

The government has promised to build 850,000 new units for both residences and businesses, but locals worry that construction works could take more time than expected.

"Rebuilding will be a long process. Thousands of people who were displaced from their homes have found temporary housing in pre-fabricated containers," Seref Atli, a retired driver from Antakya, a main city in the southern Hatay province, told Xinhua.

He is referring to the temporary new settlements built by the government in the months following the disaster. Composed of pre-fabricated housing units resembling shipping containers, those "container towns" housed around 578,000 earthquake survivors, according to data released by Türkiye's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority at the end of August.

People live in a shelter in the quake-hit city of Antakya, Türkiye, Nov 17, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Atli, who lives in one of those container towns, fears that most of his neighbors will have to spend the winter in these temporary shelters.

"We are waiting for a new house. In the meantime, we struggle to survive." He added that as winter sets in, water shortages and heating are the pressing concerns in his neighborhood.

Numan Ermis, another survivor living in a container camp in Antakya told Xinhua that they would probably have to warm themselves with gas and electric heaters, which would be particularly difficult for the children.

The trader explained that some containers are built to withstand winter conditions but most of them are poorly insulated. "In harsh winter conditions, it will not be easy to heat our shelter," he said.

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People build houses in the quake-hit city of Antakya, Türkiye, Nov 17, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

In addition, there are health concerns over the unhygienic living conditions and cancer-causing asbestos still being released from the rubble nine months after the earthquake.

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

"People living in the earthquake zone face diseases such as COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), silicosis, and cancer due to materials such as asbestos, silica, concrete, sand and stone emerging from the demolition," the Turkish Health and Social Services Workers' Trade Union said on Tuesday.

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"There are still many excavators and trucks roaming the city, and the dust that accompanies the works is surrounding us most of the time," Atli said.