Protests in Turkey after quake deaths

Police fire tear gas as demonstrators in Van call for governor’s resignation as 10 confirmed dead in latest earthquake.

Riot police have fired tear gas and used batons to disperse protesters angry over insufficient relief efforts after a second earthquake hit eastern Turkey and left at least 10 people dead.

The clash broke out on Thursday as rescue teams searched for survivors after a 5.7 magnitude tremor hit the city of Van the day before.

An estimated 300 demonstrators chanted for the resignation of the provincial governor in a rally close to two city-centre hotels that collapsed during the quake.

They called on the governor to resign because he had told locals it was safe for them to return to the buildings.

“They died because they listened to the governor,” people in the crowd yelled.

More than 600 people perished following a major quake in Van on October 23. Survivors of the earlier quake are still living in makeshift tents as temperatures drop.

Rescue efforts

Working through the night, searchers rescued 25 people from the ruins of the hotels, said an official statement.

Two of those brought out from the rubble, including a 16-month-old child, were flown by air ambulance to a hospital in the capital Ankara.

Besir Atalay, the deputy prime minister, who visited the devastated Bayram Hotel with Turkey’s foreign minister, said 25 buildings had collapsed in Van, of which 23 were empty.

The owner of the flattened five-storey Bayram Hotel, Aslan Bayram, told broadcasters that building experts had given his 47-year-old property the all-clear after last month’s quake.

At the time of the latest quake, 15 guests were believed to be in the hotel. Some were pulled out on Thursday morning.

“I am cold. Rescue me quickly,” said a man aged around 60 years old.

Muzaffer Baca, vice-president of the International Blue Crescent, a Turkish aid agency, told Al Jazeera that the state was doing everything to respond to this earthquake, but that a lack of co-ordination became evident in the villages outside Van where “the most in need are suffering”.

Citing upcoming winter weather set to drop below zero, Baca said what was most needed now “are heaters, blankets and tents for shelter”.

Lack of shelter

Since last month’s quake, thousands of families have been living in camps, but many survivors have complained bitterly over the distribution of tents.

Overwhelmed by the demand in the early days of the disaster, the authorities decided families would be given tents only after their homes were checked by officials to see if they were habitable.

Many people had been too frightened to return to homes with cracked walls and ceilings, as multiple aftershocks rattled the region for days afterwards.

The latest quake struck 16km south of Van on Wednesday, while the epicentre of the October 23 quake was just northeast of Van.

A tremor of 5.7 magnitude would not normally cause significant damage but thousands of buildings were vulnerable, having sustained damage in last month’s quake.

Atalay, responding to journalists questions over why one of the hotels had been given the all clear, said only preliminary, rather than definitive, assessments on structural damage had been carried out on the building.

At least 2,000 buildings were destroyed in October’s earthquake and authorities declared another 3,700 buildings unfit for habitation.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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