Residents in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay organised a protest on Saturday to stop trucks dumping earthquake debris near a tent city settlement, fearing it may contain human remains and pose a threat to public health and the environment.
Hatay was seriously damaged by the 6 February twin earthquakes, which left 338,000 independent units in the province’s 100,000 buildings severely damaged.
The authorities in the province have ramped up efforts to remove the debris, but they have been dumping the rubble they have collected from the province’s Antakya district in a neighbourhood very close to the seaside, schools, and a tent city. The disorganised removal of debris has left many residents concerned about the lack of consideration for public health. Residents are also concerned that some of their loved ones who are still missing may be buried under the rubble.
Protesters blocked the road on Saturday, and stopping the work machines and trucks, with one elderly woman speaking out about their poor living conditions. “We are living in tents, our children are getting sick from the dust of the lorries, we go to bed amidst germs, we get up amidst germs,” she said.
“They have dumped all of Samandağ [town] here, its debris, its wounds, its iron, its meat, its animals, its corpses. Now come and live here if you can. This is no way to live. The earthquake didn’t kill us. We said okay, at least we are alive. But now, this is worse than dying!” said another resident.
One resident claimed that the dumping is being done to save money, stating, “If you search this place now, you can find human corpses here. Why? To save a few pennies.”
The police threatened to use force to disperse the protesters, to no avail. The residents have called on the authorities to intervene to prevent further harm to the environment and public health.