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Quake Survivors Try to Overcome Yet Another Hardship

March 17, 1992

ERZINCAN, Turkey (AP) _ Weary earthquake survivors scavenged in the ruins Tuesday, accepting their fate with a fatalism born of poverty and the Muslim conviction that all is God’s will.

″I had nothing before. I have even less now, so how can I rebuild?″ shrugged Sabri Kirca, 51, an unemployed construction worker.

″It is always the same,″ said Kirca, running a weathered hand through the hair of one of his 10 children. ″There is nothing to do. I am waiting for help.″

For Kirca and other survivors, Friday’s earthquake was one more ordeal in a life already too hard to support much hope.

Unemployment nationwide is estimated at 18 percent, but is higher in this city on a plateau ringed by jagged, snow-covered peaks.

Thousands of Erzincan’s people work for little more than the minimum wage of $130 a month, a figure that often slips to $97 after taxes.

The poverty, worsened by Turkey’s inflation rate of about 80 percent a year, is fueling a mass migration to Turkey’s big cities.

It is also a major obstacle to slim Turkish hopes of European Community membership.

″I want a better life for my children. I want them to be educated. But it will not happen. They will have the same life as me,″ said Kirca.

He and others said they don’t want much but they expect the government to help them find housing and a job.

″Nothing much changes because of the earthquake,″ said Kormaz Bicer, a coppersmith whose shop was destroyed and house severely damaged in the quake.

″We always expected this to happen,″ added Bicer, who lost his house in the 1983 quake here.

″Now we make repairs and start again. We have no other choice unless they move Erzincan to another place.″

By Tuesday afternoon, the governor’s office said 422 bodies had been recovered. The figure could rise by hundreds before the city finishes digging out.

Residents spoke about the terror that hit along with the earthquake as they prepared for the nightly feast that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of atonement.

Bicer and his wife, 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter live in a tent in front of their home. The children are still too afraid to enter the battered house.

″There is nothing to explain to them. They are learning by seeing it themselves. What can we say?″

Celal Ozkan, an unemployed worker, said he sees no future in Erzincan.

″I don’t want to live here any longer. I want to move to Izmit,″ he said, hoping he could find a better life in the industrial city near Istanbul.

″It’s God’s will and it doesn’t only happen here,″ said Kahraman Osmen, an elderly laborer for the city. ″The same thing happens in Japan too and we can’t do anything about God’s will.″

Foreign donors were trying to lend a hand. The European Community and UNICEF said they were flying in 1,600 family-sized winter tents and 5,000 blankets. Canada was also providing $350,000 in emergency relief.

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