Locals live isolated amid virus on Turkey’s lake island

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Residents of a lake island in Turkey live a mostly isolated live, but most importantly they are corona-free as the world grapples with the novel coronavirus.

Mada Island is the biggest of 32 islands inside Beyşehir Lake in Isparta and Konya provinces in southwestern Turkey. It is 250 kilometers from Turkey’s tourist hub of the province of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast.

There are no reported cases of the virus on the island where 180 people currently live.

The only way on and off the island is by boat and each family possesses one.

Islanders need to paddle for 700 meters to reach the mainland.

Turkish aid group helps residents

Residents are mainly elderly and get help from the Vefa Social Support Group that was formed to help those aged 65 and older, or who have chronic illnesses, after the government issued a stay-at-home policy March 21.

Teams deliver necessary items, including food or medicine, and the items are distributed door-to-door.

Residents show their gratitude to the Vefa teams with local food when they receive deliveries.

Aytuğ Kazancı is in charge of the Şarkikaraağaç Vefa Support Group and said because the population consists of those who have chronic illnesses and are elderly, teams had to make the 700-meter paddle quite often.

“We are making a difficult road to reach to the island but it is worth seeing the happiness on people’s faces,” he said.

Turkey has registered nearly 91,000 coronavirus cases with its death toll currently at 2,100.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 185 countries and regions.

Data compiled by the U.S.’ Johns Hopkins University shows worldwide infections at over 2.5 million, with the death toll above 171,000. More than 658,000 people have recovered.

Locals adapt social distance rules

Şarkikaraağaç District Governor Onur Yılmazer told Anadolu Agency that life on the island is difficult and residents’ main livelihood is stockbreeding, fishing and agriculture.

“Maybe they don’t have much money as famous football players to buy an island but they live an isolated life on an island,” Yılmazer said.

Despite the isolation, every measure to stop the spread of the virus is taken, Yılmazer said.

“We make locals pay attention to the use of masks and social distance rules,” he said.

“We have a state strong enough to provide service to every citizen living on these lands,” Yılmazer said, pointing to the help of the Vefa teams.

Abdulkadir Yıldırım is Gedikli village mukhtar, or headman, who highlighted the 200-year-old history of the island and said residents were living isolated long before the spread of the virus.

“The virus couldn’t reach here after its spread, as there is no transportation [to the island]. They are lucky in that way. While the world feels dejected, people on Mada Island are lucky and they have a comfortable life,” Yıldırım added.

“Life, [and] transportation here is really difficult, especially during winters,” he said.

“The lake freezes and they have problems for three months, they cannot cross to [the mainland].”

Yıldırım said if someone fell ill on the island, even an ambulance had to wait on the mainland to take the patient.

Among the 180-strong population, the 78-year-old islander Mehmet Karasu is one who called Turkey’s 112 hotline for help.

“We called 112 and received our need,” he said. “God bless our nation and state.”

Hurriyet Daily News

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