| 29 May 2024, Wednesday |

Turkish family recounts moments of terror lived during earthquake

The family of Ibrahim, a Turkish contractor, survived the devastating earthquake that hit Türkiye, but their lives were changed forever.


“Everything now will be thought of as before or after the earthquake,” said Ibrahim, who lived with his family and relatives in a middle-aged three-story building in the center of Antakya.


The story of Ibrahim’s family, much like the rest of the city’s residents, began just after 4:00 a.m. last Monday.


“The building began to shake, and everything around us fell,” said Ibrahim’s 80-year-old mother, Wasila.


“We do not know how we managed to scramble out of the building, only to be left in the heavy winter that was pouring down hard,” she added.


“The loud roars of the quake were the most terrifying,” recalled Wasila.


“The earth shuddering struck fear in us. It was followed by loud roars of thunder that also shook our home.”


“We would fall to the ground and then get up again and collide with everything around us until we were finally outside at the mercy of unforgiving nature.”


“Everything is over,” said Wasila with great sorrow. She wept over the devastation that struck her beautiful city and the countless deaths of her neighbors.


Moreover, Wasila lost a sister in the earthquake. Her sister was buried in a far away town at the time Wasila talked to Asharq Al-Awsat.


“My sister died, she used to live in the middle of Antakya, and I couldn’t say goodbye to her. They are burying her now. I don’t know what my day will be like,” she said while sobbing.


Wasila’s brother, Yonal, stepped in to also tell a similar story of fear and worry for his children’s lives.


“Everything happened quickly and slowly at the same time,” said the 60-year-old father of three.


“They told us that the earthquake lasted less than a minute, but we felt that it had lasted for hours and would not end.”


“We still feel the earth’s shaking. Whenever an aftershock happens, fear returns,” added Yonal, noting that his family has been traumatized.


The building shook violently, but it did not fall, thanks to Ibrahim strengthening its structure during construction.


“I built it myself and built it well. It shook and shattered, but it didn’t fall, and it didn’t kill us,” said Ibrahim, explaining that he reinforced the building with two tons of strong iron.


Ibrahim’s neighbors had evacuated their homes and sought safety elsewhere. The same can’t be said for Ibrahim’s family, as they “don’t have another place to go.”


Yonal, for his part, sent his son and two daughters to their cousins in Istanbul and Ankara.


“I sent them there so they could take a bath and rest a bit after what they had suffered,” said Yonal, adding that his family is “waiting on the government to see what will happen to them.”


Since the earthquake, Ibrahim’s family has been staying in their cars.


“It is very cold, and it is impossible for us to sleep without heating,” said Yonal, noting that the family has been running their cars’ engines to keep warm.


The family is rationing the use of fuel.


“When our supply runs out, we will think of another solution,” said Yonal.


He also pointed to his socks and said: “I was able to change them today.”


“We get into our house quickly and out of it even faster to grab what we need. Just entering the building is an uncalculated adventure.”


The family was left alone in front of their house for three days before the first rescue teams arrived.


“For three days, no one came to us. We were terrified, hungry, and very cold,” said Wasila.


“The electricity went off with the first earthquake. The water supply, phones, and internet followed,” she added, noting that her family has been forced to drink rainwater and sleep in their cars.


“We were cut off from the world and left alone at the mercy of the stormy weather and the gangs of thieves that began hovering in the area.”


The worst experience was the voices of their neighbors trapped under the debris.


“We could hear some of them screaming for help but couldn’t do anything. The building was destroyed, and it was impossible to approach it without proper equipment,” said Ibrahim’s wife, Ozlam.


She added that among the families under the rubble was a Syrian mother with her three children.


“A boy, pinned under a collapsed wall, was screaming for help for his trapped family,” said Ozlam.


“He kept screaming until he was knocked out dead,” she added.


“Another girl was also calling for help, but no one arrived at the scene,” said Ozlam, noting that after three days, they stopped hearing voices from under the rubble.


“They (rescue teams) were too late.”


“I still remember them. They were a poor family who escaped death in Syria,” said Ozlam while pointing to a nearby rundown building where the bodies are still in place until now.