They live where death lives. Turkish undertaker’s family moves to cemetery | Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

Among the tombs of the Cankaya cemetery, in ​Iskenderun, in southeastern Turkey, the four young children of mortuary agent Ali Dogru are trying to distract themselves from the memory of the most recent tragedy that caused around 48,000 deaths in the country. Unsuccessfully. The bodies of earthquake victims continue to arrive at the necropolis, in significant numbers, and interrupt their recreation.

The cemetery became, a few days after the violent earthquake that affected Turkey and Syria, a strange kind of extension of the house when the family moved inside an abandoned bus, in thethe mortuary. The vehicle is a safe place, in the face of the threat of another earthquake; however, fixed in that place, it becomes perhaps one of the most violent for those trying to process the trauma of the tragedy.

Ali Dogru, who has been working at that cemetery for over six years, has a mission: “To work day and night to finish this job”, he tells Reuters, pointing to the lack of mass graves in the area. “I didn’t want people to come in and say the bodies weren’t buried.” In addition to burying the dead, Ali assists the authorities in the task of photographing the unidentified bodies, helping to collect fingerprints or DNA samples.

Since the earthquake, February 6th, Ali has buried more than 1200 people. To achieve this feat, he had to buy machinery that would speed up the trench opening process. “When I was a butcher, I saw people bringing their animals to be sacrificed. But I was very impressed to see people transporting their children, their parents [para serem sepultados].”

The undertaker recognizes that his mission exposes the children to scenarios that they will probably never forget, but he found no alternative, since no one could welcome them elsewhere. “They saw people with corpses in their arms because they were with me”, he laments. “I intend to take them on vacation when we get better.”

Hatice, Ali’s wife, mentions having also seen many corpses around the bus where they spend the night. Most were children. “I intend to go home after Eid al-Fitr”, the day that marks the end of the month of Ramadan. The family fears that a new earthquake will devastate the apartment where they live, which, according to the authorities, has, at the moment, no structural damage that would compromise safety. of those who live in the countryside. “Where can we go if we leave here?”, he asks. “I just want my house.”

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