Published On: Fri, Feb 10th, 2012

Turkey quake victims struggle in Europe’s cold

Record low temperatures and heavy snow are making life even more miserable for more than 140,000 Turkish survivors still living in tents or temporary homes.

As battles a deep freeze that has killed hundreds since late January, despair is hitting those who lost their homes in tremors in eastern several months ago. Many are struggling to keep warm with coal stoves or electrical heaters.

A magnitude-7.2 quake and a magnitude-5.7 aftershock in October flattened some 2,000 buildings, killing 644 people around the city of Van, a provincial capital.

Turkey has moved about 134,000 people into temporary homes but about 7,500 others are still trying to survive a record winter in tents with just electric hookups.

Gonul Meral, 33, has two children and has been homeless since October, when her landlord evicted her after an earthquake left her husband unemployed. She says her tent is so cold that water inside it is freezing solid.

“It is so hard, I had to fight to get a tent and I don’t know whether they will let me keep it because those whose houses were damaged have priority,” Meral said by telephone. “I am doing the dishes now, but the water in the basin is frozen and I have to heat the water again.”

Turkey’s government is racing to erect temporary housing sites and build proper apartment buildings for quake survivors.

Ragtag unofficial encampments have also sprung up in empty patches of ground in the quake zone, in the courtyards of houses or even on highway median strips. Many people say they prefer to stay close to their property to keep watch over it, even if that means enduring living conditions that are rougher than in the organized camps.

In Romania, freezing weather killed another 13 people and left thousands of villagers stranded as navigation on parts of Danube — one of Europe’s key waterways — is blocked because of floating ice, authorities said Friday. Some 220 homeless people were brought to shelters as temperatures plunged to minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) overnight.