After two months since the earthquakes, people in one of the most severely hit areas are struggling to meet their basic needs and now face a public health hazard caused by the removal of debris.
Activists in Samandağ, Hatay, started “vigils for life” on April 1 to protest against the dumping of debris near temporary settlements and agricultural areas set up after the quakes. One of the primary concerns for the local community is the risk of exposure to harmful substances, particularly asbestos, emanating from the debris.
Yesterday, on the 17th day of their vigils, locals marched to the Governor’s Office demanding an end to the dumping of debris in those areas. The crowd chanted slogans such as “They couldn’t kill us in the earthquake, but now they are killing us with asbestos”, “Stop the dumping of debris, defend life” and “Public health is not the property of rent-seeking companies”.
When they arrived outside the office, the police surrounded the crowd and hit the protesters with their shields. However, they later allowed them to read out a statement.
In their statement, the group made several demands, including the following:
- You cannot give our cities and fate to a few construction companies by ignoring us.
- You cannot take away our ability to govern ourselves and our cities.
- In the reconstruction of our cities, you cannot take away our right to decide and have a say.
- Compliance with the laws and regulations suspended by Decree No. 126 must be ensured.
- Regulations must be made to ensure public participation in the reconstruction of our cities.
- The current debris removal and dumping activities being carried out without complying with scientific methods and legal regulations must be stopped immediately.
- Debris transportation and dumping activities that poison our lives and living spaces as a whole must be carried out in compliance with environmental, public health, and disaster management regulations.”
On February 6, two earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.7 and 7.6 struck the southern city of Maraş. The first quake in the Pazarcık district at 4.17 a.m. was followed by the second one in Elbistan about nine hours later.
The quakes affected 11 cities in Türkiye’s south and southeast, as well as Syria’s northern parts, where over 5,000 people have died.
Türkiye’s death toll from the quakes stands at over 50 thousand and is expected to increase further, as over 227,000 buildings were destroyed or severely damaged, according to government figures.
Nearly two million people have been displaced due to the earthquakes.