Turkey earthquake: Long journeys to find family

  • In Science
  • 2023-02-08 09:36:03Z
  • By BBC
Samet holding up his phone
Samet holding up his phone  

As he waited for a delayed flight out of Istanbul Airport this week, Samet Yilmax held up his phone, pointing to a photo of rubble. He said his brother, Ismail, was buried beneath it.

Samet lives in Bahrain, but has joined scores of people making the journey to southern Turkey in the wake of a huge earthquake that has killed thousands.

Like others, he believes that he is more likely to find his missing brother if he sifts through the rubble himself.

Ismail, a 26-year-old supermarket cashier, had been staying with relatives in Hatay province on the Syrian border at the time of the earthquake.

Others, including his brother-in-law, were pulled from the remains of the building later that day, but Ismail has not been found, Samet said.

"I'm missing him so much. I have come from Bahrain to Turkey to search for him. He's my one and only brother," he told the BBC.

Samet described Ismail as intelligent and "shy with girls". He said he was desperate for good news, but felt there was "no help" with the search.

After arriving in Turkey, Samet waited for hours in Istanbul for a flight to take him to Adana in the south of the country, before beginning the hours-long drive to Hatay province.

"It's so cold here. Life is difficult," he said by WhatsApp message late on Tuesday night after arriving in the province, which has been devastated by the earthquake.

With nowhere to stay, he warmed himself by a fire through the night, as he waited for daylight so he could begin the search for Ismail.

Samet and Ismail
Samet and Ismail  

Samet is not alone. The BBC has spoken to people from across Turkey and abroad who have been travelling down to areas hit by the earthquake to search for missing loved ones.

In the city of Antakya, men armed with pickaxes and crowbars sifted through the rubble of a fallen building on Tuesday, looking for survivors. They told the BBC they were family members of the building's residents and had come from Istanbul to search for their relatives.

Medical student Aylin Pulat could not get hold of several members of her family, including her parents, after the earthquake struck.

She is based in Mugla, more than 1,000km (620 miles) from her family home in Adiyaman.

With no news on her family's fate, she took a four-hour bus trip, a two-hour flight and a more than two-hour drive back to her home city to find out if they were alive.

To her great relief, she arrived to find that her siblings and parents had survived. But 20 other relatives had died.

"When I arrived, I saw so much of the city was destroyed and there was no safe place for people to get shelter," she said.

"The only relief I got was to see that almost all of my [immediate] family were safe. I wasn't sure before getting there.

"When I found them, they were all dressed in pyjamas and that's how I knew they had escaped with nothing. We all just froze."

She said she could hear noises from some fallen buildings, but that rescue efforts were being left largely to residents of the city.

"People are just waiting helplessly to reach their loved ones under the rubble. We need support here as soon as possible."


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