Anger at government during earthquake vigils in Turkey

Thousands have gathered in Turkey to mark the anniversary of last year's devastating earthquake.

Thousands have gathered in Turkey to mark the anniversary of last year's devastating earthquake. Photo: AFP/Getty

Thousands of people have gathered at vigils to mark the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that hit south-eastern Turkey, with some accusing the government of negligence in the aftermath.

The magnitude 7.8 tremor, the deadliest disaster in Turkey’s modern history, levelled towns and parts of cities in the country’s south-east and neighbouring Syria.

It killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey, 5900 in Syria, and left millions homeless.

In the province of Hatay, the country’s worst-hit, people called for the government and local authorities to resign during the vigil, and demanded officials not present themselves at the memorial, while booing speeches.

In the main square some chanted, “can anybody hear my voice?” as Health Minister Fahrettin Koca spoke, a slogan referring to calls heard from under the rubble as people waited for days for help to arrive.

Residents say many people died not because of the buildings collapsing, but rather from waiting for so long trapped in the rubble in the cold.

After the vigil, people tossed flowers into the Asi River, which runs through the city.

Merve Gursel, who lost her aunt, her aunt’s husband and her cousins in the earthquake, called out their names as she tossed a carnation into the water for each one.

“Nobody was with these people that day. These people’s pain is that they could not be rescued. These people’s pain is that they could not have their voices heard,” she said.

Nesibe Duzgun said she was tossing flowers in the water for everyone she knew and that the move unified the people of Hatay.

President Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement on social media site X that the pain of the loss from the earthquake was as fresh now as it was a year ago, and his government had moved in the immediate aftermath of what they call “the disaster of the century”.

“The unity of the century was displayed in the face of the disaster of the century,” he said.

However, Nurul Sabah Aksu, a Hatay resident, said the government had abandoned the people of the city to die.

“Thousands of people died here. Where were they? Why did they leave Hatay like this? Why did they forget about us?” Aksu asked.


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