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Turkish hospital car park becomes makeshift morgue after earthquake

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Rania Zaboubi scours body bags laid out in the car park of a hospital in southern Turkey in search of her uncle who went missing after Monday’s massive earthquake.

“We found my aunt, but not my uncle,” she says in a choked voice.

The Syrian refugee says she lost eight members of her family in the tragedy that has so far claimed the lives of at least 16,000 people in Turkey and neighboring Syria.

In the parking lot of the main hospital in Antakya, a large city in Turkey’s Hatay province, other survivors were also going from corpse to corpse looking for people they knew.

AFP journalists counted nearly 200 bodies, arranged on either side of tents, on Wednesday evening.

At least 3,356 people died in Hatay, more than a quarter of the dead in Turkey so far reported.

Faced with the magnitude of the disaster, there is not enough space in the vast parking lot. With nowhere else to put them, seven bodies were laid at the foot of a container overflowing with waste.

The hospital has huge cracks along one side. It is still standing, but authorities have decided to evacuate it.

The interior of the building has also been damaged, making it impossible to receive patients, alive or dead.

Anonymous bodies

Patients are treated in red and white tents, and are classified in three colors according to the severity of their injuries.

Many were transported by helicopter to hospitals that withstood the tremors, with many going to Adana.

The dead, however, are stranded on the cold asphalt.

How many have been brought there since Monday? “Too many,” says Yiğitcan Kayserili, a volunteer from Ankara. “Maybe 400, maybe 600.”

Kayserili helps families find their dead while also providing psychological support. He has not slept for two days.

In the parking lot, the comings and goings are incessant.

To his right, a man and his son, a curly haired teenager, lift a body and then move on, showing little emotion.

Behind them, a man slowly drives an old blue sedan. He too has found the body he was looking for, which is lying on the back seat in a black bag. The left door is open to allow the corpse’s legs to stick out.

A long white truck is parked nearby. Unlike many other vehicles on the road to Antakya, it is not being used to haul aid. Instead, it is transporting unidentified bodies.

“About 70 percent of the bodies here are anonymous,” says Kayserili.

Those not recovered after 24 hours are loaded into the truck to end up in mass graves.

“We can put 50 bodies inside,” says Kayserili. “We could put more, but we don’t want to stack them.”

© Agence France-Presse

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