This week an earthquake has killed hundreds in south-eastern Turkey, in and around the Kurdish town of Van.
This is a very poor part of the country. The town’s population has swollen in the past 20 years from a few hundred thousand to well over a million, as a result of the war between the Kurdish national movement and the Turkish army. Peasants from the surrounding countryside have flooded in to escape the war and to search for work.
The creaking infrastructure cannot cope, and there are no jobs.
When I visited two years ago there were ramshackle, poorly-built buildings everywhere—even in the town centre. One newspaper has reported that none of the 10 sellers of ready-mix concrete in the town hold the necessary official quality certificates.
It is these buildings, inhabited by the poorest, which collapsed when the earthquake hit. They include a student hall of residence. So far, the official death toll is 366 and this is expected to rise.
The earthquake hit in the middle of extensive military operations by the Turkish army against the Kurdish PKK.
The fighting has been intense for the past two months, with dozens dead on both sides. It was revealed at the beginning of the summer that the Turkish state and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had been holding talks and negotiations for the previous five years. Clearly these have now broken down.
In recent weeks the PKK has been reminding the state that there is no military solution, that the PKK cannot be defeated by arms. Last week, 25 Turkish troops were killed in one day. The army’s response, as always, has been to wage further war, blindly and needlessly causing further bloodshed.