We fled war to die in an earthquake, says Iraqi woman mourning family in Turkey

Military personnel work at the site of a collapsed building, in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 8, 2023. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Six years ago, Rehab Talal and her family fled the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq seeking shelter in Turkey, but seven members of her family died, including a week-old baby, when her parents' house collapsed in the earthquake.

When Talal learned that the earthquake had struck the region where her parents and other family members lived, in the southeastern Adiyaman province, she rushed there, only to find a scene of devastation.

"I couldn't find the building, the entire area was flattened," Talal, who lives in another Turkish province, said over the phone.

The combined death toll across Turkey and neighbouring Syria from Monday's tremor climbed above 11,000 on Wednesday.

Talal said seven of her 13-member family had died. The bodies of her father, two brothers and four nieces and nephews remained on the ground in front of the collapsed building.

"The corpses have swollen, it's the third day, the bodies are on the street, no one has removed them," she said. "If they don't bury them here, we want to take them to Iraq."

Thousands of refugees from Iraq fled into Turkey during the U.S.-backed operation to drive out Islamic State in 2016.

Islamic State's brutal rule, which emerged in Iraq and Syria in 2014, during which it killed thousands of people in the name of its narrow interpretation of Islam, came to an end in Mosul when Iraqi and international forces defeated the group in 2017.

"We left Iraq because we were looking for peace and safety; my sister and husband were killed. We faced a disaster there to face another one here ... we fled wars to die in an earthquake," Talal said.

(Reporting by Amina Ismail and Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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