WORLD – TURKEY
When devastating earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on Monday night, claiming thousands of lives, Olga Borzenkova, a spokesperson for the UN migration agency (IOM), was in Gaziantep, Turkey, one of the hardest-hit areas. She recounts what she experienced and how she managed to stay safe:
“Like hundreds of thousands of other people in south-eastern Turkey, I was sleeping soundly when everything around me suddenly started to shake. I really don’t know how to describe it to someone who has never experienced an earthquake first-hand.
It’s just completely surreal. The floor and walls were shaking, sagging, and as we ran down three floors to the street, our only thought was to get as far away from the buildings as possible.
It was sixty seconds of the most terrifying terror I had ever experienced in my life.
Then it was cold, it was raining, we were freezing, our feet felt like jelly, it was as if they were no longer a part of our body. Everyone around us tried to find each other, shouting names, crying, calling, hoping to hear from their relatives and to find out if everything was all right.
It took us some time, but eventually we were able to find shelter – a basketball hall in one of the schools. There we went with hundreds of other people after the second tremor. We were able to take a break, get back to work, and text our relatives and friends that all was well and we were safe. We stayed there overnight. There was access to hot water, tea, there were toilets, blankets, we could spread out and put things away. Extra blankets were given if it was cold, especially for families with babies.
It’s sad to the core. A colleague of ours was killed. Some were injured, some lost family members, some lost their homes. One minute we were sleeping and the next we were part of one of the biggest disasters on the planet.
Inside me, I am screaming with despair, grief and fear. But I look to my colleagues, neighbours and friends who suffered far more than I did, and they inspire me to take further action.”
As of today, the Turkish Disaster Management Authority says the death toll from the earthquake in Turkey stands at 12,391, with 62,914 injured.