Turkish President Gül visits quake survivors in Van
VAN - Hürriyet
President Gül (R) talks to a local girl in Van. AA photo
Turkish President Abdullah Gül arrived in Van early this morning to celebrate the Kurban Bayram holiday with quake survivors and take part in bayram prayers with locals.
Today is the first day of the four-day-long bayram, when Muslims gather for prayers in mosques.
Gül went to the Ulu Mosque in Van under heavy security measures for prayers. Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay was with the president during the visit.
The president talked to journalists after prayers and said this year's bayram was bittersweet as the "pain of the disaster was still fresh."
"These are days that make holidays more meaningful," Gül said. "These are times when we all should help and embrace each other as brothers and sisters."
Gül then visited quake survivors currently living in prefabricated houses in Van's Süphan neighborhood, where he chatted with residents and celebrated their bayram. He said all shortcomings would be dealt with soon and that the conditions of quake survivors would change for the better.
Van was hit by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 23 which killed more than 600 people and injured thousands.
Gül was criticized for not promptly visiting Van when the quake struck, but the president responded, saying he did not want to waste time and manpower on presidential protocol since such human resources could be better directed toward rescue efforts.