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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Disease Threatens Quake Survivors




ISTANBUL, Turkey -- With an estimated 200,000 survivors turned into refugees, Turkish officials broadcast appeals Tuesday for everything from tents to bulldozers to help begin rebuilding lives shattered by last week's earthquake.


But more immediate medical worries began to emerge as the death toll neared 18,000.


Israeli doctors quarantined a 21-year-old Turkish soldier suffering from typhoid fever, an acute infection spread by food and water contaminated by someone with the disease. Victims suffer from severe dehydration that can lead to fatal complications without access to antibiotics.


No other cases have been reported, but some health workers have warned potential killers such as typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery could flare at any time in the squalid encampments.


"This is one of the epidemic diseases,'' said Dr. Aharon Finestone, a member of the Israeli medical team in Adapazari, about 100 kilometers southeast of Istanbul.


A World Health Organization official, Dr. Michel Thieren, said typhoid fever is present in the Mediterranean region but there was "no risk'' of cholera because it "is not prevalent in Turkey at the moment.''


Any medical emergency could significantly escalate pressure on the embattled government, whose health minister has said foreign doctors and supplies are not needed.


Some newspapers have demanded the resignation of the minister, Osman Durmus, and some foreign health workers have complained that as of yet, no contagious disease center has been established.


Meanwhile, foreign rescue teams started leaving a week after the 7.4 magnitude quake struck western Turkey before dawn, killing at least 17,997 people, statetelevision reported. Some officials estimated the final death toll could reach 40,000.


Heavy rains lashed the worst-affected regions for a second day. The muddy quagmires left by the downpours increased fears of disease from mosquitoes and flies attracted by the foul-smelling pools. Thousands of decaying bodies are believed to be still buried.


Drenched survivors battled in vain to keep their simple cardboard-and-blanket huts from collapsing.


"No one is helping us,'' cried a 70-year-old woman walking barefoot through the muddy streets of Adapazari. "All I have is my blanket and that is wet.''


Memduh Oguz, governor of hard-hit Izmit province, urged those whose houses were not seriously damaged to return home to ease the demand for emergency shelter. Turkey's National Security Council estimated there are 200,000 people without homes or unable to return to damaged buildings.


A Dutch group said it would send 30,000 prefabricated shelters designed to withstand quakes and winter cold. The United States plans to send 3,500 all-weather tents, reports said.


The government broadcast appeals listing the most-needed items in hard-hit areas, including tents, flashlights, blankets, heavy machinery for clearing rubble, garbage trucks, disinfectants and tetanus vaccines. Turkey also requested UN help to locate 45,000 body bags.


The government is desperate to deflect the impression it was helpless to deal with the disaster. Thousands of tents and hotel rooms were prepared in advance of the rain. But many survivors were either unaware of the shelters or simply too tired to reach them.