Thursday, June 13, 2024

Turkey-Syrian earthquake victims take shelter in train carriages

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The port city of Iskenderun has sheltered many in train carriages temporarily following the previous earthquake.

Sabriye Karan’s late husband worked for the Turkish national rail company for 32 years and her daughter Nehir grew up riding trains. After powerful earthquakes struck Turkey last month and damaged her home, she and Nehir moved into one.

“We never imagined we would live here,” said Sabriye, who has been sharing a two-bed sleeper cabin with 13-year-old Nehir for the past 18 days. “Normally, it’s a joy to travel on the train. But now it’s different.”

Arafat Ates, 63, and his wife Zeliha Ates, 53, sit in a train at Iskenderun station, where train carriages have been turned into temporary shelters for victims of the recent earthquakes.

More than 1.5 million people have been left homeless after the February 6 earthquakes, which killed some 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Survivors have been sheltering in tents, container homes, hotel resorts and even train carriages in Iskenderun, a port city in the province of Hatay, badly hit by the earthquakes.

Although Sabriye and Nehir’s third-floor flat was only lightly hit, with some cracks appearing on the walls, they fear moving back. Subsequent earthquakes and aftershocks have caused further damage to weakened buildings and authorities have warned people that many are unsafe to enter.

Iskenderun station is open, but two tracks are packed with wagons housing hundreds of survivors. Those first to arrive, like Sabriye and Nehir, found sleeper cabins. Others sleep upright on seats.

Yusuf Kurma and Aysel Ozcelik in one of the trains they shelter in at the station.

Yusuf Kurma, 20, and Aysel Ozcelik, also 20, held hands inside a carriage. The couple, who planned to marry, ran to find each other after the first shock. Now they might postpone the wedding. “We can’t have a wedding when we have so many dead,” Ozcelik said.

Step ladders and small benches dot the tracks to help people reach the carriages. Occasionally, a station employee warns survivors walking across the tracks that a train is approaching.

At first, every time a passing train blew its horn, it would startle Sabriye and Nehir. “Now we’re used to it,” said the 57-year-old law firm clerk.

Their narrow cabin, the width of a train window, holds a few essentials and is warmer on cold nights than a tent. They spend at least 18 hours a day inside, leaving only to take short walks around the station and line up for breakfast and dinner served by aid groups.

The sparse company since the earthquake upended their lives has taken a toll on their mental health, Sabriye said. Her husband died of COVID-19 in 2020, and she had been struggling to cope with the loss, now compounded by the trauma of the quake.

Source: Adapted from aljazeera.com and Reuters

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