After quake Turkish villagers fear white death

Wed Oct 26, 2011 4:19pm EDT
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By Humeyra Pamuk and Evrim Ergin

GUVENCLI, Turkey (Reuters) - Standing near homes that have become deathtraps since Sunday's massive earthquake, the men of the Turkish village of Guvencli gazed at the leaden sky and predicted more deaths unless they were given shelter before the winter snows arrive.

"In fifteen days, half of the people here may be dead, frozen," Selahattin Karadeniz, 47, whose mud, timber and brick house held up better than most in Guvencli, a village of some 200 homes.

The first snows normally fall in November, blizzards are common and ground can stay white until April among the hills at the eastern end of Lake Van, Turkey's largest lake, close to the border with Iran.

"This is the land of winter," said Hilmi Gulgeldi, a villager in his fifties. "To stay outside after this time is impossible. It falls to minus 25 degrees, minus 40."

Fahrenheit or Celsius, either way it spells death.

The toll from the 7.2 magnitude quake, the biggest to hit Turkey in more than a decade, had risen to 471 with search and rescue operations still going on three days later.

But the disaster has "affected 600,000," according to the provincial governor, with people in the towns and villages frightened to sleep in homes they feared were too fragile to withstand aftershocks rattling the area.

While relief efforts first focused on the provincial capital of Van, a city of 1 million, and Ercis, a town of 100,000, outlying homesteads were left waiting longer for help.   Continued...

<p>A woman sits near a building that collapsed after the earthquake in Ercis October 26, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>