Survivors give harrowing accounts of Turkey, Syria earthquakes

As frantic rescue operations continue, survivors of Monday’s deadly earthquake and its aftershocks tell their stories.

A man reacts while standing amid rubble following an earthquake in Hatay, Turkey [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Rescue operations are under way a day after devastating earthquakes shook southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria, killing thousands.

The death toll is expected to continue to rise, and many of those in need are still isolated due to frigid temperatures and blocked roads, which are preventing rescue teams from reaching the affected areas.

Even for survivors, the ordeal is not over, with many forced to stay out in the open in fear of more aftershocks, and with few places to go.

Here are some of their stories.

‘Nobody is coming’: Residents of Turkey’s Hatay plead for help

Residents of Turkey’s Hatay province, where many people remain trapped under rubble, say they have had little help since Monday’s earthquakes.

Weeping in the rain, a resident who gave his name as Deniz wrung his hands in despair.

“They’re making noises but nobody is coming,” he said. “We’re devastated, we’re devastated. My God … They’re calling out. They’re saying, ‘Save us,’ but we can’t save them. How are we going to save them? There has been nobody since the morning.”

‘Doomsday’ in Idlib

It was well before dawn when a violent shaking jolted Muhammad Alloush from his deep sleep.

“Our house oscillated like the waves of the sea,” recalled the 60-year-old, an internally displaced person from the Syrian city of Homs who currently lives in Sarmada, an opposition-held city in Idlib province, near Syria’s border with Turkey.

“As we were evacuating the house, it started to come apart,” Alloush, a father of eight, told Al Jazeera.

“My hand was injured by falling debris while I was protecting my granddaughter, which delayed our exit from the house and I consequently suffered a number of other minor injuries,” he said.

With tears in his eyes, Alloush said members of two other families living in the same building were not able to make it out in time.

A youth is comforted as residents and rescuers search for victims and survivors following an earthquake in the village of Besnaya in Syria's rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkey, on February 6, 2022. - At least 1,293 people were killed and 3,411 injured across Syria today in an earthquake that had its epicentre in southwestern Turkey, the government and rescuers said. (Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR / AFP)
A youth is comforted as residents and rescuers search for victims and survivors following an earthquake in the village of Besnaya in Syria’s rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkey [Omar Haj Kadour/AFP]

Fear, confusion on streets of Turkey’s Gaziantep

Ahmed al-Khatib, an Al Jazeera TV producer, is sheltering with his family in Gaziantep.

“Since the earthquake until now, you see thousands of cars just moving in and out of the streets. People don’t know where they are going. We went to buy some bread for the kids, and we spent more than an hour just standing in line to get five pieces of bread. People are panicked. What they want to do, where they want to go, they don’t know.

“On the street that I am in, there are dozens of cars waiting in line in front of gas stations. They want to fill up their cars, but they don’t know where to go. What they should do, nobody knows.

“We are based right now in one of the mosques. Me, my mother, my father and my kids. And the aftershocks make us crazy. We feel it, we try to run, and it ends. We feel it, we try to run and it ends.

“When the second earthquake struck, it made us all crazy. We started running like crazy. There are hundreds of people inside the mosque — they just want to survive.

“A lot of people are standing outside on the streets, they don’t feel safe, even inside the mosque. They are standing outside in the snow. It’s below zero right now. It’s too cold. I’m talking to you, and I am shaking.

“So far, we haven’t seen much help in our area, as we don’t have as many destroyed and damaged buildings. But we’ve seen many utility workers — especially from the electricity and gas companies — running to put out the fires which we saw after the second earthquake.”

People and emergency teams search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaziantep, Turkey, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful quake has knocked down multiple buildings in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared. (AP Photo/Mustafa Karali)
People and emergency teams search for people in the rubble of a destroyed building in Gaziantep, Turkey, on Monday [Mustafa Karali/AP]

‘God gave me a new lease on life’: Syrian survivor

Osama Abdul Hamid has said he barely made it out alive with his wife and four children when their apartment building collapsed in the village of Azmarin in rebel-held northwestern Syria.

In a hospital in the town of Darkush in western Idlib, Abdul Hamid said that he and his family were sleeping in their apartment when they were roused by powerful, prolonged shaking.

They ran from the apartment, but “before we reached the door of the building, the whole building came down on us,” he said.

A wooden door shielded them from the worst force of the collapse – they all got out alive.

Abdul Hamid, his wife and three of the children suffered head injuries but are all in a stable condition.

“The building is four storeys, and from three of them, no one made it out,” Abdul Hamid said, breaking down in tears.

“God gave me a new lease on life.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies