The Van region was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in October 2011, followed by a second, less powerful quake in early November. Over six hundred people lost their lives and tens of thousands spent a miserable winter in tents as their homes had either collapsed or were declared unsafe. Fortunately the initial quake happened during the day, or casualties would have been far higher.

By the spring of 2012, tens of thousands of people were still living in temporary accommodation, mainly in the form of container (konteyner in Turkish) dwellings, and Van city centre held several empty plots where unsafe buildings had been demolished, while many more stood empty and awaiting demolition. At least fifteen thousand buildings are likely to be pulled down in total. That said, many hotels, offices and homes had been checked and declared safe – some after quake-proofing – and life on the streets of Van was pretty much back to normal.

Villages in the region were also badly affected. Some, like Yukarı Bakraçlı, will be completely rebuilt. Over four hundred thousand people fled the quake zone to escape unsafe buildings and the harsh winter, but by spring 2012 many had returned. The government, initially criticized for refusing outside help, is providing housing and interest-free loans for those affected by the disaster.

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