Tent city in earthquake disaster zone at risk of flooding, warns Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers

(Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

Amid devastating earthquakes that hit southeastern Turkey on February 6, the Turkish Chamber of Civil Engineers has warned that a tent city in Diyarbakır province was at risk of being flooded by overflow from a dam, the Duvar news website reported.

A tent city was set up on the banks of the Tigris River for people whose homes were turned to rubble in the earthquakes. Turkish authorities aim to set up more than 4,000 tents for earthquake survivors.

Mahsun Çiya Korkmaz, co-chair of the Diyarbakır Chamber of Civil Engineers, said the dam on the Tigris River had malfunctioned in 2018, causing water levels to rise more than three meters. The area that currently houses the tent city was completely flooded at the time.

“Although there is a small chance of the dam overflowing, this has happened in the past and has affected the area where there is currently a tent city,” he said. “We can’t say for certain that the dam won’t overflow again, and it is imperative that authorities take this threat seriously.”

Korkmaz added that the area was not suitable for long-term settlement as it was infested with insects during the warmer seasons. He explained that although the government had presented tents as a temporary living arrangement, victims would have to stay there for more than a year until housing is available.

“Nearly 3,000 people have been left homeless in Diyarbakır,” he said. “Tent cities do not have the capacity to house so many people. Moreover, it is very difficult to keep these places sanitary and prevent outbreaks.”

Korkmaz said there was public land further from the river and at the disposal of the government to house earthquake victims. He called on authorities to consider setting up containers in these areas instead of tents for the better protection of residents.

Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in almost 100 years, which struck near the city of Gaziantep in the early hours of February 6, has so far claimed the lives of more than 41,000 people in Turkey in addition to injuring in excess of 100,000. Close to 220,000 disaster victims have been evacuated from the region to date, according to the latest official figures.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake 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.

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