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Earthquake Turkey

Earthquake Turkey (Testimony of Selma Bostan)

On a Monday morning I took the bus to work as usual, where I spotted my niece who also had to go to Ghent St. Pieters station.

“There was an earthquake in southeastern Turkey this night,” she told me with concern. It must not be that bad, I thought to myself while I wanted to recover from the morning rush, get the kids ready, go to school, etc.

Later that day my colleague showed the news about the earthquake on her mobile phone, again I gave little response.

In the evening, after turning on the TV, all news channels were flooded with the horror of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, 10 provinces in Turkey with a size larger than Belgium and the Netherlands combined, houses collapsing one after the other, like a domino effect…more like a clip from a movie. It was much, much worse than you could imagine.


In our whatsapp group, I said that I would like to go to that region, but how?! After a restless night, I went to the office and received a call from my friend, whose sister lived there, whose house was destroyed, my heart ached, listening helplessly, staring before me speechless and unable to say anything, unable to comfort. Then I was asked if I could go along, a sense of excitement went through me. “There were 2 obstacles to make the journey happen”, I had to know on the one hand whether my partner could fill in for me to keep the kids and household running and on the other hand the agreement of my team leader and teammates. Thanks to the agreement of my partner and my employer, I turned back to my girlfriend with a positive answer. A fundraiser was immediately launched on social media to kick off the mission. The money trickled in as the coordination of the trip, the purchase, the order, the delivery of the relief supplies, food, textiles, non-food, medication, transport everything we could think of, was put into operation.


Friday night we flew, 4 ladies Nigar (NK Tours be), Bahar whose sister and family live there, Seher and myself, from Düsseldorf to Antalya, by now a large part of the goods had been delivered from Istanbul to Antalya. By Saturday night the trailer was overloaded and we left with our team for Pazarcik, a municipality in the province of Kahraman Maras, one of the hardest hit regions. Along the way, we saw masses of trailers from all over Turkey, racing on the track to deliver relief supplies to the victims. Ambulances, hearses roaring across the road surface, this was real and we were almost there, you felt a mix of emotions, you don't feel alone, everyone was enthralled and did everything they could to come to the rescue with man and power. Heavy vehicles loaded with excavators were not lacking. A sense of excitement, adrenaline fought my fatigue and my insomnia, now be as strong throughout the mission, people, babies, pregnant women, the elderly, children who are homeless, injured, under the rubble to be rescued, relatives are lost , took precedence over everything. On site we noticed that there was chaos, destruction, tent camps were set up, hot meals were distributed, many left the region because there were still many aftershocks. We drove on to Adiyaman, it clearly went from bad to worse, by now it was dark and cold, our thermal clothing came in handy here, our connections insisted to spend the night with them, to refuse hospitality would be rude in this region, so we unanimously agreed to accept their offer. And there were aftershocks,…the daughter of the house was a nurse in the clinic, the tears rolled down her cheeks as she shared her observations with us, the smell that hung in the clinic, the injured people, limbs with gangrene, limbs amputated , it was raining when a woman had to give birth in the street, to her left and right were people with blankets to respect privacy during childbirth… and yet, they were glad that some of their relatives were still there, that they had a coat, that they could return home 6 days after the earthquake, the cold, chilly room was heated with an electric radiator, the electricity occasionally jumped,.. They were proud of their house that withstood the earthquake, given the strong foundation . Despite the horror they endured, they were welcoming, friendly, warm and happy to have us there. We were served a nice evening meal and were allowed to sleep in their cherished, beautifully decorated bedding. In the morning we had a traditional Turkish breakfast and then we started unloading the trailer in a warehouse where we sorted everything and filled packages. Afterwards we split up to reach as many victims as possible in the nearby villages. Some victims went to stay with relatives in neighboring villages because of the destruction in Adiyaman center or moved to western Turkey, however, most of the inhabitants of Adiyaman are loyal to their region, so there was no abandonment here. After having obtained a delicious evening meal from a friendly neighbour, we said goodbye to these beautiful people and continued our journey to Urfa, also called the city of the Prophets, where we would stay in an authentic, charming house in the middle of the city center with my Bahar's family. Here too there was destruction, but limited and Urfa was “normalized” in 6 days. After breakfast, we said goodbye to this family and continued to Gazi Antep, where we would distribute envelopes and the rest of the relief supplies, we visited clinics where we left the medication together with the "kefen" (or traditional body bags), these are white sheets cut to size to provide the corpses with a white robe. Antep was worse off than Adiyaman, on the way we were told that Hatay, where almost the whole city was in ruins, was looted by robbers, corpses were gruesomely robbed of their jewels by amputation of body parts, the army was ordered to shoot robbers, because of this we did not risk to visit Hatay. We got off on a bus platform to hand over the envelopes, but we received negative advice from the army to avoid aggressive, violent situations. We drove on to Nurdagi and Islahiye, you could see that the ground had moved, much more rubble than we had seen before. Here we started distributing the envelopes and the rest of the goods at a sprint pace to avoid pursuit or aggression. The evening fell, tired but satisfied we drove on to Mardin, with an internal flight we would fly from Mardin to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Düsseldorf (Germany).


By the time we reached the region, it was teeming with police, army, teams from India, Uzbekistan, excavators, volunteers, miners, AFAD workers (comparable to B-Fast, Red Cross in Belgium), trailers full of relief supplies, water, … The damage is enormous, it will take a long time to rebuild the southeast of Turkey and tens of billions of euros are needed to realize that. Meanwhile, people continue to collect money by doing various actions, various organizations, associations, volunteers are busy with collections. There may be a follow-up story, something gnaws at us to take action again. Observe with the naked eye what has changed and where the need is. Soon it will be Ramadan, the month of fasting, by fasting you detoxify your body and mind from the impure, you are in solidarity with the poor, it is healthy for body and mind, every Muslim must also pay a poor tax equal to 1 /40 of his possessions, there is a good chance that we will then go on a mission again with the poor tax and the collection that we will probably start again soon.


Ps: We always acted as "one team" and were always on our guard, things such as aggression, disappearances, pursuits, violence, accidents, culture shocks, ending up under the rubble, ... were calculated risks and dangers, nevertheless it did not prevent us from taking these mission, the people there needed us, up to 4 x we had almost head-on collisions, the tires / rims of the trailer broke on the way due to the heavy load, but each time we got away with good luck, I believe in miracles and guardian angels. If something will happen, it will happen, regardless of time, situation, location. What we experienced cannot really be put into words. Our travel period fell during the 7-day mourning period in Turkey, ie we did not hear regional news via the radio in the car, but via our mobile phone and social media.


I would like to thank ING, colleagues, family, friends for the donations, the prayers, the support, the compassion that allowed me to participate in this mission. The damage is enormous, but on the other hand knowing that people all over the world support Turkey and Syria eases our pain. In the meantime I received a response from B-Fast to my email, that I could forward my resume. Being there for your fellow people in need, that's the clue, means a satisfaction of the highest degree to me.

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