Earthquake survivors spending nights on the streets despite frigid temperatures

Duvar reporters write from the earthquake zone: The people of Elazığ spent the second night following the quake on the pavements of Gazi Street, the city’s main boulevard. Fires lit up every 10 meters were hardly enough to help them brace the -10 Celsius temperatures.

Hacı Bişkin - Müzeyyen Yüce /DUVAR

Following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that shook the eastern province of Elazığ has left 41 dead, and over 1600 injured. While authorities continue search-and-rescue efforts, survivors are finding new ways to live.

The people of Elazığ spent the second night following the quake on the pavements of Gazi Street, the city’s main boulevard. Fires lit up every 10 meters were hardly enough to help them brace the -10 Celsius temperatures. 

While Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent have distributed blankets to survivors, many seem to have additional layers they were able to grab on their way out to the tents. 

A mother of five says that she worries not about herself, but about her children. 

“We can bear it, but they can’t. They’re freezing. I light a fire outside and get them to leave the tent to warm up,” the mother said. 

A survivor huddled above a fire outside their tent says that it’s actually colder inside the tent. 

“They gave us this tent but it’s empty inside. The ground is just dirt, but it’s frozen. There’s no way to warm it up, no matter what you spread on it,” said the survivor. 

Alevi villagers have questions

The areas that received tents from AFAD may actually be the lucky ones, considering there have been rumors on social media of some villages, particularly those that are populated by the Islamic minority Alevis. 

Upon arrival at the Bölükkaya Alevi village, it’s noticeable that there are fewer houses standing than in rubbles. Everyone sleeps outside at night, and there is a noticeable lack of supplies in the mountain village. 

Village Chief İbrahim Çakır says that 45 houses are habitable whereas 90 percent are in rubbles, adding that that they urgently need more tents, containers and blankets.

“It’s still winter ahead… People are worried about their houses and about how they’ll make it through the winter,” the chief said.

Residents of Alevi village Bölükkaya

While some think the lack of supplies is because they are Alevis, a 70-year-old resident isn’t certain. 

“Maybe it’s because we’re Alevi, I don’t know. We’ve always been the step children of this country. We’ve always been abused, but not this time please. We just want our houses rebuilt, that’s it,” the resident said. 

HDP: None of the needs are being met

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party said that a committee comprising members of their  central executive committee, members of parliament and party directors made inspections in central and peripheral provinces of Elazığ to notice that ‘none of the people’s needs are met.’ 

The committee visited over 60 villages and two cemevin where an approximate 1000 people are taking shelter.

The nearby Siir and Ergani municipalities will be sending an initial load of dry foods, almost 50 tents and a thousand blankets. The load will leave Diyarbakır Jan. 26 and new donations will be compiled for the next load at Ergani Municipality.

Nearby Malatya is "worse than it’s ever been"

The nearby town of Malatya was struck hard by the quake. The town is silent after the impact, but a business owner says that it was in fact very loud right after the shock. 

“It felt like the entire city was going to collapse. We just threw ourselves outside. Half an hour later, we found out nearby towns were collapsing. People were running around,” said the shopkeeper. 

They added that when they turned on the TV, they found out people were ‘under the rubble’ in Elazığ.

“As the aftershocks kept coming, people left town to stay with relatives elsewhere. I’ve lived here for 30 years. I’ve never seen my hometown in such a bad state,” the shopkeeper said. 

There are two big hotels on the main street of Malatya: The receptionist at the first one warns visitors that there’s no hot water in the hotel because it started ‘running like mud’ and the municipality shut it off. 

On the second floor, the cracks in the walls are enough to make visitors look to the second hotel some 200 meters ahead. 

While most of the hotel’s rooms are full, there are apparent cracks in hallways, paint falling off the walls and even some hallway lights that are signed off as ‘damaged.’

When reminded of the Bayram Hotel where 24 people died in the 2010 Van quake, the receptionist responds ‘Not a little thing will happen.’

A risky return

A woman in the Doğanyol Province of Malatya wanted to go back into a building where two people died. 

The woman was going up the ladder she rested on a window when the building started shaking and pieces of the rubble started falling off.

The woman went down the ladders after AFAD squads arrived at the scene. 

She hugged her sister and cried after making it out of the crumbling building.