Earthquake survivors: ‘Worse than the bombardment in Syria’

Al Jazeera spoke to two Syrian women who survived the earthquake in Hatay province.

People inspect the damage as rescuers search for survivors in the aftermath of Monday's deadly earthquake in Hatay, Turkey [Umit Bektas/Reuters]

Two days after a series of earthquakes hit southern Turkey, relief efforts are yet to reach some areas of the country. The province of Hatay, which is home to some 500,000 Syrian refugees, has been particularly hard hit, with rescue teams overwhelmed by the level of destruction. Aid has been delayed by the substantial damage the earthquake has caused to the roads and the civilian airport near the provincial capital, Antakya.

Al Jazeera spoke to two Syrian refugee women, who live in the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, near the border with Syria. Both were widowed in the war in Syria and had fled across the border seven years ago, in search of safety for their children. Here is how they described the situation.

Um Hadi, mother of four

When the first earthquake hit, we were visiting Um Khalid. We felt that the house would swallow us, we felt we were going to die. The electricity went off, but we managed to run outside.

Cries, wails, fear, cold, and rain! It was worse than the bombardment in Syria, worse than the fighter jets. When the jets are coming to bomb, you hear them, you know they are coming, you can hide. With the earthquake, you don’t know when it will hit.

We got out and stayed under a tree in the cold, as the earth kept shaking. We were freezing so we started a small fire to keep warm. There was nowhere to go and we were too afraid to go back inside our homes, which were still standing but were damaged by the earthquake.

We have spent two nights like this already, sitting on chairs outside, in the cold, not having a minute of sleep. We are homeless refugees yet again.

Today, the municipality put up a few tents for people to use as shelter, but no aid has reached us, no one has come to help us.

The bakeries are not working. Even if you want to buy bread, you can’t find any. I went around the whole town looking to buy food for our children and couldn’t find anything but biscuits and samoon [a type of bun], and those were expensive, too.

The prices of everything have jumped two to three times. I bought a candle to have some light at night; it’s 15 lira now [$0.80], it used to be four [$0.20].

There is still no electricity, no running water, no gas, no fuel. The hospitals are all damaged. There were also people killed by the earthquake. We heard the minaret of one mosque fell on a car where a family was hiding and killed them. There are other victims too, but not as much as Antakya. There, there are so many dead, most of them Syrians.

And in Syria, the situation is even worse. So many dead. I lost some relatives, too.

Monday’s earthquake and its aftershocks have affected a vast area of the Middle East (Al Jazeera)

Um Khalid, mother of three

Thank God we are alive. But we have been sitting outside in the cold and rain since Monday morning now.

My children are with us out in these freezing temperatures. They are afraid, they are shaking from the cold in front of my eyes; one is already sick. God have mercy on us.

I have lost relatives in the earthquake. My cousin lost his wife and children; another relative lost her children in Syria. So many people died.

We don’t dare to go inside our homes. I live on the first floor and am still afraid. The building did not collapse but it was damaged. And they told us that the multi-storey buildings are not safe and we should not go in.

There is no electricity, no running water. We are buying water to drink. A small truck comes by and sells it for 15 lira [$0.80] a bottle. They are all exploiting the situation.

Yesterday night, the authorities came and gave out one samoon per family. Imagine, one samoon for the four of us.

The roads are cut off and we cannot go anywhere else. We are on our own, there are no aid organisations here, no government help.

The situation was already bad before this happened. The rent was going up, the prices were going up. We were struggling more than when we were in Syria. We were already going hungry. May God help us.

Both Um Hadi and Um Khalid used pseudonyms for security reasons

Follow Mariya Petkova on Twitter @mkpetkova

If you want to learn about how to donate to the Turkey and Syria earthquake disaster response, go here

Source: Al Jazeera