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There is only one doctor, one nurse and one midwife at Tuzkoy. There are two cemeteries in the village and both are full. They are now opening a third cemetery.
"We are lost in different rumors and darkness," said Ismet Bilgen, a mother of six and grandmother of five. "I don't know what we should trust. May God help us!"
The government considered knocking down the village and burying it after relocating all of its residents as far back as 1999. Financial constraints, bureaucratic hurdles and a string of unstable governments have slowed down efforts to address the problem over the years.
Tuncer said the government was still considering the best option to rehabilitate Tuzkoy and minimize the risk of cancer. Parliament has also set up a committee to look into ways to deal with the problem.
Authorities hope that "New Tuzkoy" will be completed by the end of 2011. Villagers make a living mainly from agriculture, livestock, and from a nearby salt mine.
Tuzkoy is 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the nearest sites where tourists marvel at natural stone formations, and 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Urgup, Goreme and other towns where the local tourist industry is concentrated.
There is no indication of similar health threats at these popular sites, which were formed by volcanic deposits millions of years ago and later sculpted into underground cities and other dwellings by early civilizations.
Tuzkoy has about 1,000 houses, and some areas feel like a ghost town. Many houses are used to keep only animals. Some are locked or just abandoned.
"It's true, people die of cancer here. There's nothing shameful in admitting it," said Ahmet Balta, a 51-year-businessman who said many of his own relatives had died of cancer at a young age. "Academics, the government and the media have to take the problem seriously."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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