20 people detained for protesting dumping of quake debris in village near Orontes River

Twenty people have been detained for protesting the dumping of debris left by recent earthquakes in Turkey in a village near the Orontes River, the TR724 news website reported.

People living in the village of Yeşilköy in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay staged a protest on Tuesday and blocked trucks transporting debris to their village. However, gendarmes broke up the protest, detaining 20 people.

Environmental experts who inspected the disaster area earlier said they were alarmed to see that the debris had been moved from the cities to places where they could easily mix with water supplies and agricultural land.

“We survived the earthquakes, but we’ll die from [the impact of] the rubble,” the villagers said.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has also warned of the presence of asbestos in buildings affected by the devastating earthquakes.

The earthquakes left in their wake 210 million tons of debris that includes asbestos and chemical, medical and industrial waste.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service, environmental experts said they feared authorities had not disposed of the rubble according to regulations. The responsibility for debris removal and disposal rests with the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Urbanization and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD).

“There are 19 locations where waste is deposited after a disaster. We know about seven of these places, but 12 are a mystery. There is absolutely no transparency,” Utku Fırat from the Chamber of Environmental Engineers said, adding, “Authorities need the expertise of engineers and environmentalists, but instead of consulting us, they’re leaving us out.”

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