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In a quake-hit Turkish town, one survivor just wants help to leave

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In a quake-hit Turkish town, one survivor just wants help to leave © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A satellite image shows collapsed buildings and traffic after an earthquake in Antakya, Turkey, February 9, 2023. Satellite image copyright 2023 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

By Ali Kucukgocmen

ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) – Aslihan Kavasoglu has spent the last six days camped out with her family in a small building in a park in the Turkish city of Antakya, mourning lost relatives. Now all she wants to do is to leave her quake-devastated hometown.

“I lost my two sisters, brother and mother in the quake. Most of my family is gone. Save us from here, we don’t have anywhere to go. I don’t know how we will get out of here,” Aslihan told Reuters.

Aslihan, her husband and their three boys fled their home and arrived at the park shortly after the earthquake struck early on Monday and they have stayed there since, finding refuge in a small one-storey building that they are sharing with several other families.

They sit and sleep on mattresses laid out on the floor, and rely on the food and water brought by aid workers to the park, where more than 500 people have taken refuge and are living in tents and one-storey buildings.

The park appeared to be under construction before the earthquakes and its aftershocks struck. Now it has become a camp for the homeless, but life there is tough.

Mounds of garbage are scattered around, with litter in the playground. The air smells of trash and of the heavy smoke from the bonfires families keep lit throughout the day as they try to stay warm.

Boxes of food and water bottles line the entrance of the park, as well as clothing donated from around the country.

The building where Aslihan and her husband lived was one of the few left standing, but they said they didn’t feel safe entering it even though they have nowhere else to go.

On Saturday evening volunteer cooks, some of them from other cities, were passing out pasta with tomato sauce.

“God bless them, we are given food and other aid” said Aslihan.

But she said the hygiene conditions had deteriorated, with people having to use the street as toilets.

“Everywhere smells terrible. We can’t sleep at night because of the smell,” she said

She said she wanted to move to the capital Ankara, where somebody they know told them they had found work and an apartment.

Her husband Taha, a garbage collector working for Antakya municipality, said he did not wish to leave his hometown, but would do whatever is good for his family.

“We initially thought it was a few buildings that collapsed. We saw the reality in the morning but we only received help three days later,” Taha said.

“Nobody wants to leave their hometown. I wouldn’t leave my hometown but I will do it for my family.”

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