Desperation has reached new levels in Turkey's eastern Van province as thousands of people, left homeless by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that devastated the district in October, struggle to survive in tents in freezing temperatures with the risk that fire will break out if they attempt to heat their makeshift homes.
Snow has reached a depth of 20 centimeters in most areas of the province with temperatures at night falling to as low as 10 degrees Celsius. With some tents hosting as many as eight people, residents must face an impossible conundrum: Do they attempt to sit out the freezing nights, or do they light stoves and electric heaters, which pose a high risk of fire.
The past 100 days have seen over 130 fires break out in tents, with the number of deaths and casualties from such accidents rising every day. With little hope of an improvement in weather conditions many are asking, which is better: to freeze to death or to burn to death?
In the latest report of such an instance, the Vatan daily reported on Monday that a fire had broken out in the tent of a family of eight in the Karşıyaka district of Van after a spark from a fire set the temporary structure, which was erected in the garden of the family's former home, alight.
Whilst Mehmet Emin Kıyağ managed to save his family, he himself suffered injuries to his eyes. “All our possessions and provisions have been burnt,” the 56-year-old said, adding: “I have been doing my best to provide for my family over the past months, but I don't have a kuruş left now. I haven't been able to find work since the earthquake.
We sent two of our children off so they can have a better life. Thankfully we were provided with a tent, but a tent is not enough in this weather. We have to light the fire at night or we will freeze to death, there is no electricity. We can only hope that we don't have to live through another disaster like this.”
On Sunday the Anatolia news agency reported that according to the Kandilli Observatory and the Earthquake Research Institute at Boğaziçi University two separate tremors were experienced; one a magnitude of 4.4 in the province's Erciş district and the other a magnitude of 3.8 in the village of Akçift. Another strong earthquake would be devastating for Van. In the region of 60,000 people were left homeless after an earthquake shook the region on Oct. 23, leaving some 600 dead and over 4,000 injured.
The freezing conditions have also wreaked havoc on the province's transportation system. According to the Van Municipality, access to the region of 171 villages has been cut off due to the heavy snowfall.
CihanGüncelleme Tarihi: 30 Ocak 2012, 09:24