Van commemorates quake victims, survivors remain on strike

Van commemorates quake victims, survivors remain on strike

Van commemorates quake victims, survivors remain on strike

Two years after a devastating earthquake in Van, the southeastern province is still healing its wounds. Some families are still living in the temporary container sites despite having been told to leave the camps. Some are on hunger strike to protest the decision. DHA Photo

It is two years today since a devastating earthquake hit the southeastern province of Van, killing more than 600 people. Those who lost loved ones visited cemeteries on the eve of the second anniversary, which caused the highest number of casualties in the Erciş district and the surrounding villages.

The earthquake hit the region with a 7.2 magnitude for 25 seconds on Oct. 23, 2011, leading to 604 deaths and more than 4,000 injuries. The epicenter was located only 17 kilometers away from the center of the city of Van.

Murat Yürük, who lost his wife and three children at his house in Dağönü village, told Anadolu Agency yesterday that his grief had "not healed," while visiting the graves of his family members. Yürük said his only surviving daughter, five-year-old Esma, gave him strength to continue his life.

“Esma used to tell me to build our new house faster. She thought they [her mother and siblings] would come when we moved to a new house. After we moved to the new house, she understood they were not coming back and she became incredibly sad,” he said.

Fifteen people, 12 of them children, were killed in the Dağönü village of Van in the earthquake, which was followed by a 5.6-magnitude aftershock on Nov. 9, 2011. Twenty-four people, including two reporters from Doğan News Agency (DHA), Sebahattin Yılmaz and Cem Emir, as well as Japanese doctor Atsushi Miyazaki, were killed when Van's Bayram Hotel collapsed in the Nov. 9 aftershock.

A number of victims, who settled in container sites after losing their houses and relatives, have started a hunger strike in protest at electricity cuts that started after they were told to evacuate the area.

Around 110 families living in the Anadolu container site were told to leave the camps and then their electricity was cut. A number of people started the hunger strike to protest on Aug. 28, and it has continued on rotation among residents at the site since then.

Ali Ahi, the spokesperson for the strike, said they needed to have their basic demands met, including electricity, and also wanted to have permanent residences. According to the Van Bar Association’s recent report about the container-city, Ahi said 110 families were already in dire need before the earthquake and they urgently needed to be provided with jobs to continue with their lives on their own.

“The basic needs of the earthquake survivors cannot be met due to the lack of electricity in the container site. The children do not attend school and psycho-social problems are also rising among the families,” said the Van Bar Association’s report.

The earthquake victims were paid a total of around 245.5 million Turkish Liras to rebuild their own houses, and 29.5 million liras were paid for stables damaged during the quakes. The damaged buildings are continuing to be demolished in the city.

In the meantime, the prosecution against Salih Ölmez, the owner of the Sevgi apartment building in Erciş, which collapsed during the Oct. 23 earthquake, killing 54 people, is still ongoing. The trial of Nezir Baş, owner of the Safa apartment building in the center of Van, in which 20 people were killed, also continues. Baş is being tried without arrest due to health problems, and faces a 22-year jail sentence for causing the death of more than one person.