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Earthquake Survivors Living on Turkish Sleeper Trains   

 The Earthquake Survivors Living on a Turkish Sleeper Train 
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The Nur mountains loom over the Iskenderun railway station, an imposing reminder of the tectonic forces that devastated this corner of Turkey and Syria a little more than two months ago.

While regular rail service still rattles through the station, two of the tracks are occupied by sleeper cars. The wagons allude to adventure and escape but these night trains are going nowhere. The passengers are homeless, survivors of the February earthquake that left their houses or apartments damaged or destroyed.

Some 700 people are living on board the cramped wagons. Among them is Sevil Uygur, who is in her 70s.

“We have no houses. They are gone. They were leveled to the ground,” Uygur told VOA. “So we took shelter here with the children and we live here. They bring us food. The people here are not left hungry. But sleeping here is very problematic and difficult.”

Uygur’s young granddaughter, Burin, is desperate to return to normality. “I want to go to school but at the moment the situation does not allow. Of course, I want to go to school,” Burin said.

Sevil Uygur says a lack of money has made a bad situation worse. “If we could go to another place she could go to school. But we could not so we stayed here. Those who have money escaped and have gone to the other cities and their children go to school. But we cannot do it, so we sit here on the train,” she said.

Twenty-seven rail cars were set aside for earthquake survivors when VOA visited the station March 28. Twenty-two of them contained beds, which officials say were quickly taken by the first arrivals. The remaining five cars have no beds and people sleep in upright chairs.

Some of the trains’ residents, like Safiye Kolagasi, have homes that are still standing but are too dangerous to live in.

“Our house is a little damaged. If the authorities say that we can live in our house we would go today. We are waiting but we will stay here until they tell us it is safe to live there,” Kolagasi told VOA.

The rail cars are warmer and drier than a tent. But they are cramped, crowded and noisy, with little privacy. With hundreds of thousands of homes destroyed or damaged by the earthquake, it’s not clear when the homeless survivors will be able to move on.

Memet Aksakal contributed to this report.