Turkey Is Running Out of Graveyards, as The Death Toll Surges to 21,000

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Muslims Graveyard Via Unsplash by Uta Scholl
Muslims Graveyard Via Unsplash by Uta Scholl

Turkey: The Nurdağı graveyard in the Turkish province of Gaziantep —on the Syrian border — will soon be full. The new graves are marked with blank headstones, with only pieces of ripped cloth gathered from the victims’ clothing to identify them. 

Outside, hundreds of bodies are piled on top of one another in pickup trucks, waiting for their last destination. At least five imams went to Nurdağı to continue with mass funerals, sometimes ten victims at once. Officials brought in deliveries of coffins from neighboring villages and as far as Istanbul to offer a final resting place for the growing numbers of corpses arriving in the town.

Five days after two powerful earthquakes hit southern Turkey in the country’s most menacing natural disaster in a generation, the death toll has skyrocketed above 21,000. Nurdağı and towns across southern Turkey and northern Syria are scenes of final day levels of destruction.

“Forty percent of the people who lived in this town could be gone,” said Sadık Güneş, an imam in Nurdağı. His home is situated next to the ramshackle mosque. Without a place for their prayers, mass funerals in Nurdağı and the rest of southern Turkey are being held outdoors.