Juan Cole Middle East

Earthquake Leaves Millions Homeless and Without Water and Electricity in Turkish, Syrian Harsh Winter, Many Facing Death

By Juan Cole / Informed Consent

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad reports that on top of the now nearly 30,000 known deaths in Turkey and Syria, millions people are estimated to have been made homeless. Not only are they without shelter, they now lack water and electricity, and often even food and the World Health Organization (WHO) is afraid that a large number may die from exposure.

Jane Clinton and Harry Taylor at The Guardian report that 870,000 people are in desperate need of food.

Sanitation is a problem. In almost completely destroyed cities like Antakya, there are no remaining toilet facilities. Cholera outbreaks are a danger in such situations.

WHO has been able to send supplies to 400,000 people so far.

Some people whose cars were not destroyed are sleeping in them.

Tent cities are quickly being erected, but the lack of water is really worrisome. People can survive a lot, but if you don’t drink water for about three days, your kidneys give out and you die of renal failure. 

Thousands of homeless Turks are already being accommodated in hotels and in government hostels. President Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkish universities would go to online teaching so that refugees from the earthquake could be put up in student dormitories.

Far more people were killed by the earthquake in Turkey than in Syria, with 3,500 dead in the latter. (ver 5 million Syrians are without shelter now — according to the UN High Commission on Refugees. The Syrian government, though, is estimating about 300,000 homeless from the earthquake in government-held areas.

The Turkish figure for homelessness is not being reported but 13.5 million Turks were “affected” by the earthquake. The large number of Syrians affected came about because the country’s building stock was already badly damaged by the country’s civil war of c. 2012-2017. During 2015-2017 the Russian Air Force heavily bombed rebel-held areas such as East Aleppo and Idlib.

Some 6 million Syrians had been displaced inside the country by the war, before the earthquake. And tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled to Turkey from the war were struck by the earthquake. So this is misery on top of misery.

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Juan Cole

Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan He is author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Follow him on Twitter at @jricole or the Informed Comment Facebook Page

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