February 24, 2024

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Türkiye earthquake: Thousands mourned the death of their loved ones on the first anniversary

Türkiye earthquake: Thousands mourned the death of their loved ones on the first anniversary

ANTKYA, Turkey (AP) — Millions of people across Turkey on Tuesday mourned the loss of more than 53,000 friends, loved ones and neighbors in the country. A catastrophic earthquake a year ago.

On the occasion of what it calls the “disaster of the century”, the government has arranged a series of events to commemorate the first anniversary of the disaster that occurred in southern Turkey.

In Antakya, the capital of the southern province of Hatay, angry crowds clashed with police as officials were led to a commemoration ceremony. Mayor Latfou Savas was greeted with chants calling for him to resign, while Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was subjected to jeers and boos as he delivered a speech.

Amidst the fog on the banks of the Orontes River, people chanted, “Does anyone hear me?” – echoing the voices of those buried under the rubble a year ago – and “We will not forget and we will not forgive.”

People stand for a minute of silence on the rubble of destroyed buildings, marking the one-year anniversary of the earthquake, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yoksu)

People throw carnations into the Orontes River on the occasion of the first anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yoksu)

People throw carnations into the Orontes River on the occasion of the first anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yoksu)

“Some of us were buried alive,” said Mustafa Bahadirli, 24, in Antakya. “We called our government ‘father’, but the government left us without a father. We have been abandoned for days and are still abandoned.”

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Sibnem Yesil, 22, criticized both the government and opposition politicians such as Mayor Savas.

“I think they were very disrespectful,” she said. “It's been a year, they never came, and now they're here for a party… You didn't hear our voices, you didn't help, at least let us grieve.”

After a minute of silence at 4:17 a.m. on the anniversary of the earthquake, carnations were thrown into the river in remembrance, and a local orchestra played a song to honor the victims.

Hatay province, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Syrian border, was the most affected of the 11 southern provinces hit by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The earthquake left more than 59,000 dead, including 6,000 people killed in neighboring Syria.

In a cemetery of unidentified victims outside Antakya, Ayten Tuncer, 60, was searching for information about her younger sister, Nisrin.

“On this painful day, the real reason I came to the Tomb of the Unknown People is, maybe I will find her, maybe I will get some information, maybe someone saw her.” Because all the families with missing people come here and someone might see them and know them.”

A man chants slogans during a gathering to commemorate the first anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yoksu)

A man chants slogans during a gathering to commemorate the first anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yoksu)

A woman holds a photo of her relatives, victims of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country during the first anniversary of the quake, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yuksu)

A woman holds a photo of her relatives, victims of the catastrophic earthquake that struck the country during the first anniversary of the quake, in the city of Antakya, southern Turkey, Tuesday, February 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Metin Yuksu)

Crowds in Adıyaman held a silent march, past the clock tower that over the past year has shown the time of the earthquake.

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later oversaw a drawing of opportunities to own newly built homes in Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the earthquake, after inspecting ongoing work to rebuild the city and rehouse thousands still in tents and prefabricated containers.

“Today, we drew lots for 9,289 houses in Kahramanmaraş and handed over their keys,” Erdogan said. He added that the government aims to deliver 200,000 homes across the earthquake zone by the end of the year.

The families selected from the drawing were then called to the stage to receive the keys to their new homes from Erdogan. The concert was broadcast nationally.

Earlier, in a social media post at 4.17 a.m., Erdogan said the loss caused by the disaster “still burns our hearts as fresh as the first day,” adding: “Thank God, our nation has successfully passed this painful and historic test.”

Opposition politicians are also visiting the region, with CHP leader Ozgur Ozil attending celebrations in Hatay before traveling to Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.

Schools were closed throughout the day in many provinces affected by the earthquake. In Malatya, the governor banned any marches or other public performances outside officially sanctioned events for three days.

Meanwhile, Mads Brench Hansen, head of the International Federation of the Red Cross delegation to Syria, told reporters in Geneva that there were few chances for post-earthquake reconstruction in the war-torn country.

“We do not have the necessary funding to even think about carrying out reconstruction and reconstruction on a larger scale,” he said.

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Wilkes reported from Istanbul. Associated Press writer Jamie Kitten in Geneva contributed to this report.

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