Feature: Survivors seek refuge in Turkish capital for post-quake new life

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by Burak Akinci

ANKARA, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Türkiye's capital Ankara has become a hub for hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors looking forward to starting a new life in the aftermath of the devastating quakes in their homeland.

The capital hosts some 240,000 survivors, the biggest share of an estimated 3.3 million scattered across the country, according to official figures released last week.

However, relief organizations and official sources put the number of people who found refuge in Ankara at at least 500,000, saying figures have increased as some citizens have not yet registered with local government offices.

Since the earthquake, it has become common to see many cars in Ankara with license plates from the 11 provinces affected by the catastrophe, confirming the arrival of a sizeable survivor community.

Gurkan Sasmaz from Kahramanmaras Province, the epicenter of the twin earthquakes on Feb. 6, said it is still very early to plan the future as the trauma is fresh, but life must go on despite the tragedy.

"We cannot see our future. Everything is blurred. We need some time to make a plan," Sasmaz, a 46-year-old pharmaceutical representative, told Xinhua.

Still traumatized by the loss of 16 relatives, he estimated that half of the displaced people would eventually not return to their hometowns.

Sasmaz, who is living in Ankara for several years, went immediately to hard-hit Kahramanmaras hours after the tremors and brought back his son and ex-wife, for whom he is trying to build a new life in the capital.

He is very close to the survivor community and strives to make the transition easy for relatives and friends who have chosen Ankara as their new living ground.

"Ankara is the first city selected by earthquake victims to come and live in because of two reasons: it is far away from the earthquake zone and it is a huge city, the capital city, where people can find a lot of opportunities," Sasmaz explained.

Ankara, a city of 5.6 million inhabitants, is located about 700 km west of the epicenter of magnitude -7.7 and -7.6 quakes that have claimed more than 46,000 lives in Türkiye, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Described as the worst disaster in the region in a century, the quakes have affected more than 13 million people in large swaths of land and destroyed over 214,000 buildings.

Damla Ergoren is one of those who lost most of her fortune when her building collapsed in the disaster. Fortunately, she, his husband and her 11-year-old daughter are unscathed.

The family from Antakya city of Hatay Province has found refuge in Ankara in a host family that has agreed to accommodate them for a couple of months until they get on their feet.

For a week, her family camped in open ground before they were evacuated by the government to Ankara.

Despite losing her home, Ergoren expressed optimism about the future as she feels supported by "good people" who have opened their houses.

"We are still under the shock of what happened to us and to our beautiful, but I believe we can rebuild what has been destroyed. It will take time but it's feasible," she said. Enditem

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