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Red Cross Providing Shelter for Turkey Earthquake Victims - 2003-05-01

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it is working to provide temporary shelter for earthquake victims in southeastern Turkey, whose homes have been destroyed.

The International Red Cross says rescue teams are working frantically to reach more than 140 children who are trapped under the rubble of their primary school in the town of Bingol. Red Cross officials say about 70 students have been rescued from the collapsed building, but concern about the fate of the others is growing.

Red Cross Spokesman Denis McClean says rescue workers from the Turkish Red Crescent society arrived in Bingol province shortly after the earthquake struck early Thursday morning. He says the organization has sent medical teams, food, seven mobile kitchens and a mobile clinic to the area.

In addition, Mr. McClean says, the Red Cross plans to send enough tents to accommodate 25,000 people.

"Another concern that we have is that a lot of people will be afraid to go back to their homes, even if their houses are still standing, because of the fear of aftershocks," said Mr. McClean. "So, there will be a need to provide shelter for a sizable number of people, even those who are not actually homeless, but who are simply afraid to go back to buildings, which they fear could be further damaged in aftershocks."

The early morning earthquake was magnitude 6.4. This same area was hit by a quake 30 years ago that killed 900 people. Two major quakes that struck the northwestern part of the country in 1999, claimed nearly 20,000 lives. Mr. McClean says it is too early to know what the final death toll from this disaster will be.

Bingol province is close to Iraq, and the Red Cross official says one reason its workers were able to send supplies so quickly is that they had been positioned in the area in anticipation of an influx of refugees from Iraq. Since the refugee exodus never materialized, he says, the stock of supplies is available to assist quake victims.