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Türkiye continues to heal from wounds inflicted by twin quakes one month on

Buyuknacar was a picturesque village perched high in the mountains of the southern Turkish province of Kahramanmaras until it was effectively wiped off the map by the catastrophic February 6 earthquakes that killed tens of thousands a month ago.

Little is still standing in the settlement that was home to 2,000 people before the 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude quakes struck on February 6, its epicentre just 26 kilometres to the south.

The tremor and its aftershocks claimed more than 46,000 lives in Türkiye as of Monday, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

More than 5,000 were also reported killed in neighbouring Syria, bringing the total number of fatalities to over 51,000.

The disaster killed 120 people in Buyuknacar, an agricultural village surrounded by rugged mountains and lush valleys filled with oak and pine trees.

“Only four or five houses are still standing, but they are all damaged,” said Ziya Sutdelisi, 53, a former village administrator.

Türkiye stretches across some of the world’s most active fault lines and is no stranger to big shakes.

But none has been as damaging or deadly in the country’s last century.

Ziya’s wife Kiymet said the villagers felt relatively safe at more than 1,000 metres above sea level.

“Then everything crumbled in a few seconds,” she said, surrounded by the rubble of stone and concrete homes.

Survivors who stayed behind now live in tents, grieving and reliving the horrors of being woken in the pre-dawn hours by a jolt that upturned millions of lives.

Sutdelisi is still haunted by the rumble of the moving ground, which swung buildings like pendulums in the dark.

“It was as if 10 trains were passing by simultaneously,” he said.

READ MORE: Live updates: WHO pledges support as death toll in quake-hit Türkiye rises

Revival of region

With roads to the community blocks, it took days for help to reach them, forcing familities to claw their way through the rubble by hand in search of trapped loved ones.

Because ambulances could not reach them across damaged, snow-covered roads, they drove the injured to nearby hospitals on their own.

“For six days, we were 40 people in a makeshift tent. It was cold and snowy,” Kiymet said.

Every family now has their own tent provided by the government. Container homes are arriving that villagers plan to assign to the elderly and most vulnerable.

But nothing will be firmly decided or change for Buyuknacar’s survivors until officials conduct ground analyses to determine whether people will be allowed to stay here and rebuild.

The few remaining buildings could tip over from one of the thousands of aftershocks that have rumbled across Türkiye in the past month.

“We would not dare go inside the houses,” said villager Hulya Morgul. “They are like our enemies.”

President Erdogan has pledged to reconstruct the country’s southern region in the wake of powerful earthquakes that struck earlier this month.

“With the completion of debris removal activities, we are starting the reconstruction and revival of our region,” Erdogan told a press briefing in the Kahramanmaras province, where the quakes had their epicentre.

“In a few months, we are starting the construction of 309,000 houses, including village houses, throughout the earthquake zone,” he added.

The president also warned the public that aftershocks are still continuing and called on them to avoid entering damaged buildings.

United in grief and perseverance, the survivors have formed new bonds, which offer a glimmer of hope.

“We have all suffered, we are helping each other,” Sutdelisi said with a smile as a barber from nearby city of Gaziantep offered him and two others free outdoor haircuts.

“Life has to go on for our kids,” he said.

READ MORE: Türkiye-Syria earthquake: Arab relief efforts continue, one month on

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