Turkey-Syria earthquakes: grieving UK Turkish families rally to support and honour loved ones back home
Members of the UK’s Turkish community have seen loved ones left injured, homeless, orphaned, or even killed by deadly earthquakes this week. They’re doing what they can to help from afar.
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Families in the United Kingdom’s Turkish community are doing what they can to support and honour loved ones back home from afar, after two deadly earthquakes tore their lives apart.
More than 21,000 people have been reported dead, after Turkey and Syria were hit by two massive earthquakes on Monday (6 February). Thousands of buildings have collapsed, and while efforts to rescue survivors from the rubble continue, time is fast running out.
Kasif Demir is one of many in the UK who has set up a GoFundMe to help family back in Turkey. On Thursday afternoon he learned the bodies of his nephew - and his wife - had been found in the rubble of their home in Antakya.
“In Turkey, we have one of the biggest armies in the world, but not a single soldier was on the street… 36 hours,” he said.
He had heard from family members on the ground help and supplies had started to arrive in the Hatay province. “But it’s too late, people have started to abandon the city.”
Demir’s nephew had four brothers and a sister, and the family had run an auto parts business together their whole lives, he said. Now the business had “turned to rubble”.
“But in a way they are just glad they were not inside of it when it was demolished,” he said.
Demir also lost his brother-in-law and his five-year-old daughter in the quakes, survived by his wife and older daughter. His sisters, who lived in a nearby village, had managed to escape with only scratches and bruises.
“[There is] no damage to the structure of their houses, but they’re still extremely scared to go inside,” he said.
Raising money to support them was the only thing he could do from his home in Sunderland, Demir said. He planned to send any money raised directly to affected family members, especially those left homeless as they fled the ruined city.
It would also go towards hope, education, and a future for the children those lost had left behind, he said. “It’s going to basically help them get some fresh, clean water, then rebuild their lives.”
Londoner Kerem Aydin also learned his mother and seven-year-old brother - who also lived in Antakya - had been killed this week, after his Istanbul-based uncle drove through the night to check on them.
“They were happy people, they liked to help people out,” he said. “She was very kind. She loved my brothers and my sisters, and her religion.”
Aydin was originally aiming to raise £3,000 - the amount it costs to drill a new well for those in need in underpriviledged communities around the world - but as of Friday people had already donated more than £4,500. He decided to double the fundraising target to build two boreholes instead.
“I didn’t expect for it to be so much,” he said. “I am so grateful for my country… So many people helping others.”