It has been a full year since the February 6 earthquake that killed more than 53,000 people and injured more than 107,000 others in Turkey, leaving 11 provinces and cities damaged, and many of their neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
A few seconds were a turning point in the lives of thousands of Syrian families in Turkey. Some of them managed to escape at the last minute, while others died under the rubble.
“My family was under the rubble”
Hala Berro recalls the memory of the earthquake with sadness and pain accompanied by tears. That was the last night she spent with her family. On the night of February 6, 2023, they gathered to watch a family movie together in Antakya, Hatay Province, not knowing that these hours would be their last together.
In the early hours of dawn, Hala fell from her bed as the ground began to shake, and her father called on everyone to stay in their places and not leave the house for fear of falling. Her younger brothers left, and in the midst of the chaos, Hala ran outside, looking at her mother, who froze in shock, and her father, who remained paralyzed in his place.
I heard the sound of the building's columns breaking. When I reached the entrance to the building, it collapsed. I looked back and realized my family couldn't get out.
Hala Barrow – a survivor of the February 6 earthquake
Hala told Enab Baladi that she heard sounds of the building’s columns breaking, and when she reached the door, the building and those inside it collapsed. She survived after being pushed by the pressure of the falling building. She looked back but her family wasn't behind her. She knew they remained under the rubble.
The ground continued to move, preventing Hala from standing amidst the rain and the collapse of electricity poles, and the electricity supply to the entire city was cut off.
It rained heavily that night, and the cold gripped our bodies. We could only hear people screaming under the rubble without being able to help them, but my father, mother, and sister had no voice.
Hala Barrow – a survivor of the February 6 earthquake
Tim, Hala's younger brother, was injured when an iron pole fell on his head while he was trying to escape, which required urgent intervention.
Hala called the ambulance, the fire department, and Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) from a survivor's phone, and they told her they would come after sunrise.
Several days later, rescue teams recovered the bodies of Hala's father, mother, and sister, and the coroner informed her that her sister's death indicated that she had remained alive for hours under the rubble and died of suffocation.
After the earthquake
Hala, a graduate of Gaziantep University from the Department of Child Development, and her 20-year-old brother Ibrahim, who was in his final year of high school before the earthquake, had to work to pay their rent and expenses. Caring for their 12-year-old brother Tim.
I have to work long hours to provide a decent life for my brothers. The earthquake took us back. We are now unstable and bear heavy responsibilities.
Hala Barrow – a survivor of the February 6 earthquake
February 6 earthquake
The February 6 earthquake, which measured 7.7 on the Richter scale, was followed hours later by another 7.6-magnitude earthquake and hundreds of aftershocks, killing 53,537 people in Turkey and injuring 107,213 others, according to the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Eleven Turkish provinces were affected, and 14 million people were affected.
By February 2023, the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey reached about 3.5 million refugees, about 1.75 million of whom reside in the cities of southern Turkey that were struck by the earthquake, which constitutes 47% of the total refugees subject to the temporary protection system.
The number of orphaned children who were victims of the earthquake in Türkiye has not been determined. The Turkish “Yateem/Yateem” Foundation stated that approximately 7 million children were directly affected by this disaster, including 4.5 million in Turkey and 2.5 million in Syria.
“Do you hear my voice?”
Abdullah Halwani (22 years old), a Syrian from Kahramanmaraş (the epicenter of the earthquake), told Enab Baladi that even though a full year has passed since the earthquake, it seems as if it happened today.
“On the anniversary of the earthquake, my family gathered in one room today for fear of a repeat of the scene.”
Abdullah Halawani – a survivor of the February 6 earthquake
Abdullah and his family survived the earthquake, and went to his sister's house, which was half an hour away on foot. At first, he was not aware of the extent of the disaster in front of him, until he began to see the buildings around him collapsing and turning into dust, and the bodies of the victims filling the streets, hanging from the buildings.
Abdullah, a third-year nursing student, examined all the bodies he saw in hopes of finding a heartbeat, to no avail. Most of the people in the streets were hit by stones from nearby buildings, which led to their death.
When he arrived at his sister's house, he saw that the large building consisting of 5 floors, each containing 6 apartments, had completely collapsed, and the surrounding buildings had fallen on top of him.
Abdullah tried to scream into the holes of the demolished building where his sister lived, hoping to find a voice that would guide him to the presence of survivors, but to no avail. He tried to help the rescue teams that began arriving on the third day of the earthquake, where 50 people were recovered alive from the collapsed building, and the bodies of 7 children and 4 adults were also recovered.
“I buried my sister with my own hands”
On the fifth day of the earthquake, February 11, rescue teams were able to recover the bodies of Abdullah’s sister, her husband, and their four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Zainab.
Abdullah bought 6 body bags for the number of victims from the victims' family. He said: “I took Zainab in my arms to the grave. She was dear to my heart, and her voice still resonates when she calls me uncle.”
He added that he felt sad and helpless at the way his sister was buried without funeral rites, prayers, washing, or the presence of her family, and he said that his deceased sister was the closest to him.
Six days later, the rescue team reported hearing the voices of children from under the rubble, and they were able to pull out the three remaining children from the family alive from under the rubble.
Now Fatima, Aisha and Khadija live in their ancestral home after losing their parents.
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