ANTAKYA: Some people can hardly sleep. Others are afraid of spending time indoors. Many more have developed a strong fear of the mountains that had before provided them with tranquility and well-being.
Turkish earthquake survivors clinging to the foot of steep cliffs around historic Antakya are quietly bearing the toll of a disaster that killed over 50,000 people two months ago.
Their fear adds to the shock of losing everything — literally overnight — from their homes and loved ones to their health and money.
Cuma Zobi is well aware of this sensation.
Massive rocks smashed into the 38-year-old security guard’s residence on the outskirts of Mount Staurin, waking him up.
Where the door previously stood is now a jagged-edged hole in the modest brick building.
When the pre-dawn earthquake obliterated swaths of Turkiye’s southeast, his car was entombed, and his three bleeding children barely managed to crawl out.
During the rains and aftershocks that followed, more large rocks fell.
“No one dared to enter a house anymore,” Zobi stated, standing next to his wrecked structure.
“However, even if you sleep in a tent, you think about it, remember everything, and dream about it,” he continued.
“It will be difficult to overcome this fear.”
Eralp Turk, a volunteer psychiatrist, tries to soothe the pain by zipping about the disaster zone with a box of medications in his car and a notepad to record emotions.
Turk was among the thousands that flocked to Antakya — once known as Antioch — when it was revealed to be the epicenter of Turkiye’s worst calamity in contemporary times.
The 32-year-old makes approximately 15 visits per day from a list provided by the local social service.
Some survivors are too shy to approach people and push them away.
“I never press. “I only offer,” he remarked as he sped away in his fast vehicle.
“Acute stress, grief, and a recurrence of old psychiatric disorders triggered by the earthquake are the most common symptoms.”
But he swiftly clarified that these were merely broad strokes.
“Every disaster is unique. “Every region and its people have their own quirks,” he explained.
“Culture and traditions play a role as well.”
Nuriye Dagli is strongly affected by the pain of fatal stones falling down her beloved mountains.
The 67-year-old has spent half her life admiring Mount Staurin’s stunning cliffs and reassuring tranquillity.
“We were such a happy family,” she remarked from inside one of the tents that have housed the majority of the residents since the disaster.
“We sat at the foot of the mountain, the children played, and the smell of flowers and trees filled the air,” she murmured.
“I was not afraid even when I was alone.”
She is now — and she has no idea how to deal with it.
“Rocks the size of this tent fell on us,” she explained.
Her regular nylon tent was large enough to accommodate a carpet and a sofa.
“Once upon a time, a psychiatrist came by. “I believe that helped,” she continued hesitantly.
Aysen Yilmaz, a social worker, said the people she sees in Turkiye’s tent communities exhibit all of the characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Some tell us they have sleep problems, appetite problems, are very angry and aggressive,” the 54-year-old explained.
“All of these are symptoms of PTSD,” she explained. “They have been through a lot.”
Sevgi Dagli focused all of her energies on the gurgling baby who was born into a happy world 15 days before the calamity.
The 22-year-old peered warily out of her tent and muttered that she rarely expresses her emotions.
“I keep things to myself,” the young mother explained as she returned her gaze to her infant.
“We might have to leave because the more rubble is cleared, the dustier it becomes, which is bad for our health,” she explained.
“So I guess it’s not good,” she said after a brief pause.
“I suppose we don’t know what we’re doing.”