Looting, sanitation woes weigh on Turkey quake responders

A volunteer said hygiene supplies were urgently needed. (document)

Antakya, Turkey:

Volunteers trying to find dwindling survivors in the Turkish quake-hit city of Antakya said on Saturday that looting and sanitation problems added to their daunting task.

A resident who was searching for a colleague buried in a collapsed building said he witnessed looting in the first days after Monday’s quake before leaving the city for a village.

“People smashed windows and fences of shops and cars,” said Mohammad Bok, 26, who is now back in Antakya looking for colleagues among the collapsed buildings.

German aid groups suspended rescue operations in the quake region on Saturday, citing safety concerns and reports of clashes between crowds and gunfire.

Turkish authorities have yet to comment on any unrest, but President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the government will firmly crack down on looters and other crimes, noting that a state of emergency has been declared.

The death toll in Turkey and Syria has surpassed 25,300.

Jisem, another rescue worker from the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, said she also saw looters during her four days in Antakya.

“We can’t intervene too much because most looters have knives. They caught one looter today and people chased him,” she said in the city, where a large police and military presence was directing traffic and helping Rescue people and distribute food.

When she arrived, she described Antakya as a place of death and destruction. “We couldn’t hold back the tears,” she said as ambulance sirens blared in the background.

“If people don’t die under the rubble, they die from their injuries, otherwise they die from infections. There are no toilets here. It’s a big problem,” she said, adding that there weren’t enough bodies in bags for all the dead.

“Bodies were strewn across the road, covered only by blankets.”

Citizens wear masks to mask the smell of death.

Others also expressed concerns about sanitation, especially the insufficient number of working toilets.

There were long queues for the makeshift toilets, but many said they were just looking for shelter, prompting complaints about the stench.

“I think the biggest need right now is hygiene products. We have problems with toilets and I’m worried that certain diseases will spread,” said a man who did not want to be named and traveled from Antalya to help with the rescue operation.

He said there was little coordination and everyone was doing what they could to save lives, with some collapsed buildings still intact in side streets.

“We dug for hours,” he said, describing a 56-year-old woman who was pulled from the rubble overnight, her face covered in dust, as she fell into the stairwell of an apartment building.

“We’ve exhumed about 150 to 200 bodies.”

(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)

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