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Turkey’s earthquake toll tops 48,000 as gov’t races to build container cities

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The death toll in Turkey from last month’s major earthquakes has risen to 48,448, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Monday, as authorities rush to set up container cities to house for the longer-term those left homeless by the disaster, Reuters reported.

The combined death toll including those killed in Syria has climbed to more than 54,000.

Speaking at a news conference in Malatya, one of the provinces hit by the earthquakes, Soylu said the toll in Turkey included 6,660 foreign nationals, mostly Syrians, adding that authorities were still trying to identify 1,615 victims.

The earthquake and subsequent powerful tremors injured more than 115,000 in Turkey and left millions sheltering in tents or seeking to move to other cities.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has pledged to rebuild homes within a year, but it will be many months before thousands can leave their tents or container housing and daily queues for food and move into permanent housing.

Soylu said the government plans to set up 115,585 containers for as many families in 239 sites across the affected region. He said 23 sites had been established so far and that 21,000 containers were set up, with 85,000 people living in them.

He said 433,536 tents had been set up since the earthquake at 354 sites, adding that businesses would be given new temporary workplaces in the next 10 days.

During a visit on Sunday to Hatay, one of the worst-hit regions, Erdoğan said Qatar had pledged to send 10,000 containers that were used during the World Cup at the end of last year.

Soylu said of the 36,257 buildings that collapsed, the rubble of 5,321 had been cleared, while 6,000 of 18,219 buildings slated for immediate demolition had been knocked down and the resulting rubble cleared.

He said the collapsed buildings and those slated for immediate demolition made up only 25 percent of the work, while other heavily damaged buildings that need to be demolished and cleared make up 75 percent.

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