Turks Beg for Permanent Homes
Aug. 24, 1999
GOLCUK, Turkey (AP) _ They do not need food or more blankets. They want no more rolls of toilet paper or cast-off clothing.
In this wiped-out coastal village on the Sea of Marmara, Sevim Karaca shakes her fists. She speaks for thousands of the wet and homeless who huddled Monday under plastic tarps, enduring the latest indignity visited upon them since the ground heaved last week.
It sprinkled Sunday night. By Monday afternoon, it was a deluge.
``We just want someplace covered to live,'' cried the 45-year-old woman whose family lost every earthly possession in the 7.4-magnitude earthquake of Aug. 17. ``We are just waiting here. We don't know what to do. We are just waiting for the government to tell us what to do.''
But even the government can't do that. Just down the road at Turkey's largest navy facility, military officials say much the same. Meeting with staff members from the U.S. relief agency AmeriCares, high-ranking officers declined most medical supplies. They wanted tents. They wanted prefabricated housing.
``What we need is help for the future,'' said Adm. Bulent Ajeinar.
The Golcuk Naval Base was severely damaged, though officials tried to downplay that Monday in the name of national security. At least 500 people died on the installation. The missing have not yet been tallied, officers said.
More than 1,000 people died in the town of Golcuk. Five-story apartment buildings became three. Buried and demolished cars still line the streets, where police force all motorists into one lane so siren-wailing ambulances can pass.
On the base, its entire headquarters' staff work in tents, which dripped and sagged under Monday's storm. The fire department was destroyed. Its crushed red trucks peeked from an avalanche of broken concrete. A records office lay in rubble. So did the military investigations building.
What is left of Mrs. Karaca's home tilts drunkenly, less than a five-minute drive away. Her family _ a husband, daughter, son and 7-month-old grandchild _ all survived. Her 25-year-old daughter's back is broken and she remains in a faraway hospital, paralyzed from the waist down. The navy's hospital is closed. Her new doctors don't know if she has forever lost the use of her legs, Mrs. Karaca said.
But even that does not dissuade Mrs. Karaca from feeling fortunate, or from looking ahead.
``We have the pain, but the people who died, they have nothing. We saved ourselves,'' she said.
Their exodus was hard-won. Mrs. Karaca was awake at 3:02 a.m. She has bad nerves, she said, and often cannot sleep. When her third-floor apartment began to shudder, ``I began screaming. A bedroom wall fell on my daughter.''
Ebru Karaca was trapped. Her baby daughter, Aleynal, rolled under a chair.
Mrs. Karaca, her husband, and her 18-year-old-son ran to the front of their home, but it was impassable. They ran to the back, hoping to climb down the balcony.
But another apartment building had collapsed onto their terrace. It was then they realized that in their haste to summon help for Ebru, they had left the baby behind.
``We almost forgot her,'' said her grandmother, shaking her head and lighting another cigarette.
The family wailed from their blocked balcony. ``Please help us,'' Mrs. Karaca screamed into the dark.
Neighbors helped them pull Ebru from under the wall and then they picked their way across the balcony and used the building that collapsed into theirs as a bridge to safety.
They have lived outside since then, in a parking lot in front of another set of apartment buildings that toppled inward, erasing the first and second floors.
Nearby toil men with hammers who are frantic to build boxes of plywood and plastic before the next rainfall.
First, the Karacas awakened to a shaking nightmare. Next they were homeless. Now, they are soaked to the bone.
``I thought I was dreaming that it was raining, but then I woke up and my whole front was wet,'' said Denise Kara, 32, Mrs. Karaca's sister-in-law.
The two women sat chain-smoking on a small patch of carpet that constitutes the Karacas' new home. A haphazard collection of plastic sheeting, erected just hours before, hung over them. At their feet were a few stacked cushions and blankets, a box of sugar, a tiny carton of tea and a plastic bag of green olives.
``We don't need food,'' said Mrs. Karaca. ``We need a home.''