Earthquake victims in southeastern Turkey living in despair and hopelessness

Seven months after two devastating earthquakes destroyed thousands of homes in southeastern Hatay province, victims say they are living in despair and hopelessness, the T24 news website reported.  

The magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes affected 11 provinces in the country’s south and southeast on Feb. 6, killing more than 50,000 people and leaving millions homeless.

Victims have said access to basic necessities such as clean water is still very limited. They also fear the approaching winter months since most live in tents and containers. In addition to these problems, victims have been grappling with problems of safety, with a growing number of women reporting sexual or physical harassment. 

“The toilets are located at a distance from the tent, and sometimes we have to go at night,” said one victim, Özge Genç. “You need to walk down a dark, isolated road to get to the toilet, which is very frightening.”

“There’s no TV, no internet in the tent cities, so it can get very boring, and you also want to socialize. But the tent cities are located far from shops and are really isolated. If you want to take a walk in the evening, it’s not safe,” she added. 

Genç explained that nearly every woman in the tent cities had been harassed in some form. “But the perpetrators are also earthquake victims, so maybe the trauma has led to some kind of psychological problem,” she said. 

Fights occur often in the tent cities, and residents say the number of police and security guards are not enough to ensure public order.

Father of four Kudret Yılmaz, 43, said he had lost the will to live. “Life is so meaningless at the moment,” he said. “We can breathe, but this is not living. We lost everything, and now we are grappling with so many problems.”

Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in almost 100 years, which struck near the city of Gaziantep in the early hours of February 6, has so far claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people in Turkey in addition to injuring more than 100,000. Close to 220,000 disaster victims have been evacuated from the region to date, according to the latest official figures.

After the quakes, social media users also complained about the lack of basic necessities, such as water, blankets and tents as well as medical supplies. Months after the disaster, victims still have trouble accessing these necessities. 

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