Emotional Turkish journalist narrates how parents survived deadly earthquakes

The elderly parents of Turkish journalist Turkmen Terzi escaped the deadly earthquakes that struck near the Turkey-Syria border on Monday. More than 6 300 people (at the time of writing) have been reported killed in the disaster.

Terzi, a Turkish national and permanent resident in South Africa, told News24 that he received a phone call on Monday, informing him that the quakes had ravaged his hometown, Kahramanmaras, in southern Turkey, which was severely affected by the earthquakes.

He was immediately worried about his parents. Fortunately, they escaped harm because they were visiting Terzi’s brother in Istanbul when the quakes hit. 

“I was born in Kahramanmaras and went to high school there. All my family and relatives are there. They took refuge in our family farmhouse after all their houses collapsed or sustained cracks,” Terzi said on Tuesday.

He added, “Had my parents been there when the earthquakes hit, they would have been helpless because their building collapsed.”

In addition to his parents losing their home and belongings, his relatives were frantically searching for his cousin and uncle, who have been missing since Monday. 

Terzi said his relatives in Turkey struggled with the search due to a lack of electricity and signal, which also made it difficult to communicate with each other.

He said:

The family is stressed, and there are relatives I haven’t been able to reach.

Turkish nationals in Istanbul have flooded the airports in an attempt to travel to earthquake-stricken parts of the country to look for their relatives and assist in search and rescue efforts. 

However, the damage to road infrastructure and airports in affected areas has hampered their efforts, according to Azhar Vadi, a member of SA’s non-governmental organisation Salaam Foundation. 

South Africans lend a helping hand

Vadi spoke to reporters from Istanbul International Airport enroute to the city of Hatay in the south of the country. He flew to Turkey on Monday to assist with search and rescue operations and food supply, among other missions.

“Many national highways to the south have been closed. The roads are damaged, and there has been structural damage to bridges, water, and petrol pipelines. This would endanger civilians who want to travel. Only rescue operations are allowed to travel to the south,” he said. 

Millions of people have been displaced and tens of thousands of people have been injured, and Vadi called on organisations to assist in relief efforts.

“I would encourage people to go about it through official channels, and if they can’t come, they can donate through organisations already here,” he said.

Volunteers from the Gift of the Givers and health experts from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) left South Africa, where Terzi was residing at the time of the earthquakes, for Turkey on Tuesday. They will assist with medical supplies, equipment, consumables, tents, blankets, and food, among other humanitarian relief items. 

Acting head of the department of medical emergency services at CPUT, Simphiwe Sobuwa, said the team had the necessary skills to perform urban search and rescue operations, and that the team would also earn valuable experience during the mission.