Icy temperatures could cause 'secondary disaster' worse than earthquake, WHO warns

Survivors of the earthquake are facing a 'secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster' as they are stranded in 'horrific conditions,' warns the World Health Organisation.

ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger reports from Malatya, Turkey, amid plummeting temperatures.

When Monday’s twin earthquakes struck, how hard each place was hit depended on its proximity to the epicentre. 

Then geography dictated again which survivors rescue teams could reach and who must be left to die in the wreckage. 

Getting heavy lifting equipment and international specialists to places like Malatya, a small city deep in the Turkish mountains, was difficult enough. 

But when disasters of this magnitude strike it is not just the people beneath the rubble who need help. 

The two quakes have left thousands of families homeless in this city alone and Malatya’s geography is once again its worst enemy. 

At almost a thousand metres above sea level this place is as high as some Alpine ski resorts. 

Turkish soldiers search for survivors under a collapsed building in snow covered Malatya Credit: AP

Imagine then, having to spend your nights in a flimsy tent, pitched on snow-covered ground with the thinnest of mats and not enough bedding to go round.

That is the reality for the Yilmaz family who we met trying to warm up their children around a small stove. They are sharing a tent designed for one family with two others and the youngest baby, Druella, is just 6 months old. 

Her mother is trying to breastfeed her but it's so cold its well nigh impossible. They have no nappies left either. Last night the temperature fell to minus 11 degrees and in mid afternoon it’s still well below zero. 

Everyone here fled their homes with just the clothes they were dressed in - some of the children are still wearing pyjama trousers beneath their coats or cardigans.

Incredibly, despite their lack of warm clothes, they run through the narrow alley ways between the tents, grabbing our arms and shouting their names. 

But not 5-year-old Chaglar who barely moves - a silent, dark haired soul. His bare toes, poking through plastic sandals, are rust red against the ice and snow.  It is hard to imagine how this sockless little boy will make it through the next days and nights. 

Until Monday, these children went to school and came home to welcoming warm homes. Their fathers are bakers and electricians and they lived in a neighbourhood that no longer exists. It’s not just their homes that are gone -  they tell us many of their neighbours perished too. 

These warm, friendly people are powerless in the face of bone-chilling cold. Having survived the earthquakes, they are now threatened by temperatures that are almost as deadly and they desperately need more help.

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