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Fear amid the chaos: Singaporean siblings caught up in Türkiye quake while on holiday

There have been dozens of aftershocks after a deadly earthquake hit Turkey and Syria.

Fear amid the chaos: Singaporean siblings caught up in Türkiye quake while on holiday

Rescuers search for survivors through the rubble in Sanliurfa, on Feb 6, 2023, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Turkey's south-east. (Photo: AFP/STR)

SINGAPORE: It was past 4am in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa when Singaporean Tajjlee Rahim and his sister were awoken by what they thought was a snowstorm. 

There had been a forecast for heavy snow on Monday (Feb 6) but when the tremors continued, Mr Tajjlee knew something was wrong.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake had struck central Türkiye in the darkness of a winter morning, the worst to hit the country this century. The epicentre was near the city of Gaziantep, about 130km away from Sanliurfa.

More than 4,300 people in Türkiye and neighbouring Syria have been killed.

Mr Tajjlee, who was on holiday in Türkiye, told CNA that 16 buildings collapsed in Sanliurfa, three of which were just 2km from their hotel.

They evacuated from the eighth floor of the hotel building, which suffered minor cracks and some shattered glass, according to the 35-year-old.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't afraid because it is my first time experiencing this disaster," his sister Sriwayuni Rahim told CNA.

She added that the siblings hugged each other, tried to "be strong for one another" and think positive thoughts throughout the ordeal.

The initial quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that jolted the region amid search and rescue work on Monday afternoon.

Roads damaged in Turkey after an earthquake hit the country on Feb 6, 2023. (Photo: Tajjlee Rahim)

When CNA spoke to the siblings on WhatsApp, they were travelling north to Cappadocia by car, hoping to get to Istanbul next to catch an earlier flight back to Singapore.

The siblings were scheduled to fly home on Wednesday but are now looking to bring forward their Turkish Airlines flight to Monday.

They felt aftershocks during the journey to Cappadocia which would take them a total of seven hours - two hours from Sanliurfa to Gaziantep and another five hours from there to Cappadocia.

"It's like we are so scared of feeling scared," Mr Tajjlee said in an Instagram Story. "But we are content and pray we'll make it safe(ly) to Cappadocia."

Recalling the scene of the disaster, Ms Sriwayuni, 29, said she felt sad seeing the elderly and children crying for help. 

The situation in Sanliurfa was "pretty chaotic" with "ambulances everywhere", added Mr Tajjlee.

He said mosques in the city had collapsed and that authorities there were trying to evacuate people from the collapsed buildings.

"Mentally, it's a lot to take in," he said.

The siblings added that they are very thankful to their driver and tour guide for keeping them safe.

Roads damaged in Turkey after an earthquake hit the country on Feb 6, 2023. (Photo: Tajjlee Rahim)

Tremors were felt in the Turkish capital of Ankara, 460km northwest of the epicentre, and in Cyprus and Lebanon. 

Mr Tajjlee's friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr Haider, was in Istanbul on holiday when the quake struck. He said tremors did not affect the city.

Türkiye is in one of the world's most active earthquake zones.

The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 - when more than 17,000 people died, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.

A magnitude 6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.

And in October that year, a magnitude 7.0 quake hit Türkiye's Aegean coast, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.

Read this story in Bahasa Melayu here. 


Source: CNA/fh(gs)


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