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Turkey turns to tents and tourist resorts to house quake’s homeless

tents are placed at a stadium in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake in kahramanmaras
An aerial view shows tents placed at a stadium in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey

Turkey is grappling with one of the biggest challenges from the earthquake that flattened a swathe of its towns and cities: how to shelter hundreds of thousands of people left homeless in the middle of winter.

Banks of tents are being erected in stadiums and shattered city centres, and Mediterranean and Aegean beach resorts outside the quake zone that use the winter months to prepare for summer tourism are opening up hotel rooms for evacuees.

But with some 6,500 buildings collapsed and countless more buildings damaged, hundreds of thousands of people lack safe housing.

Syrian refugee Bahjat Selo, 62, and his family have camped near their cinderblock and corrugated metal home in Kahramanmaras since the quake caused dangerous cracks in its walls.

“It’s too dangerous to be inside. When we go in to get things, we go in like thieves.” he told Reuters.

“We spent four years in a camp – and this is harder. It’s so dark,” he said, his voice cracking and breaking into sobs.

The country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority has established meeting points for homeless people wanting to be evacuated from the quake zone. It calculates that more than 28,000 people have been brought out so far, with nearly 5,000 leaving by road and more than 23,000 by plane.

HOTELS WELCOME SURVIVORS

In the Aegean resort area of Marmaris, the owner of the Cettia Beach Hotel has opened up his hotel for earthquake survivors.

“My hotel is closed in winter and it was scheduled to be opened by April when the summer season starts. We were renovating the hotel but we will stop and open up the hotel next week,” said Bulent Bulbuloglu, the hotel owner.

Hotels all around Turkey have allocated some 10,000 rooms for survivors, the Turkish Hoteliers Federation told Reuters. Most of these rooms are in resorts such as Antalya, Alanya, Marmaris, Fethiye, Bodrum as well as İzmir and Cappadocia.

“Hotels in Antalya welcomed their first guests from the disaster zone by Wednesday morning,” said Ulkay Atmaca, head of industry body Professional Hotel Managers Association.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that government was doing all it could to provide temporary accommodation to earthquake survivors who wanted to be re-housed.

“In all over Turkey, 15,729 people have been accommodated in state guesthouses, student dormitories and hotels,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Ankara. “In Antalya alone, 11,165 earthquake survivors are accommodated in hotels.”

But with thousands of people still buried under piles of rubble, many survivors appeared unwilling to leave the region despite the freezing weather.

“We have allocated rooms in our hotels but we see that many survivors do not want to come now, because they are still waiting for their family or friends to be rescued from rubble,” said Hakan Saatcioglu, Coordinator of Limak International Hotels&Resorts, which operates four hotels in Antalya.

Another problem in the earthquake area is sanitation.

In Antakya, in the central district of Hatay, it is almost impossible to reach a public toilet. In a tent camp near Hatay Stadium outside the city centre and even in a field hospital near partly-damaged Hatay Research Hospital, there were no public or mobile toilets available as of Wednesday night.

When people asked officials about toilets, they replied that the Emergency Coordination Center had been informed and the facilities would arrive “soon.”

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