3 Stories from the Türkiye Earthquakes

On the 6th February 2024 it will be one year since devastating earthquakes impacted Türkiye (formerly Turkey) and Syria. The earthquakes struck in the middle of the night, when most people were at home asleep. The disaster killed over 50,000 people and destroyed more than 66,000 buildings.

ShelterBox Canada responded in Turkiye, providing emergency shelter to people left with nothing after the earthquakes. Homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Many people were also afraid to sleep indoors, fearing another earthquake. In total ShelterBox supported over 12,500 people thanks to your generous support.

Before the earthquake, life was normal”

Celal and his wife Sibel live with their two daughters in the Asurz region of Türkiye. They both have fond memories of life before the earthquake.

“Before the earthquake, life was normal,” said Celal. “We went to work, went out in the weekends. We now just spend a lot of time in the house.”

On the night of the earthquake the family were able to escape uninjured. After the earthquakes the family initially slept in the car through fear of aftershocks. They then slept together in one room. The earthquake had a big impact on Celal’s daughters. They insisted on sleeping near the door so they could escape in the event of another earthquake. And it really impacted their studies.

“The impact [on my daughters] is psychological. They were both preparing for exams – high school and university entrance exams. But now, they cannot go to the place where they were studying because it collapsed and they must work in our home where there’s very little room. It also means a constant reminder of what has happened.”

Celal and his family received a tent, hygiene kit, solar lights and blankets from ShelterBox working with Rotary. They planned to put the tent up in the garden. This would allow them to sleep soundly at night without worrying about aftershocks. Despite this, Sibel still looked forward to a time when life could return to normal.

“We would hope to move back into our home. Almost everything we had before the earthquake has changed – there’s no order, no peace, no sleep.”

Celal and his wife Sibel outside their home. It was badly damaged in the earthquake.

It felt like the ground was going to collapse in on us”

vDilek’s house was very badly damaged in the earthquake. She was still waiting to hear if it needed to be pulled down due to being unsafe.

Like many impacted by the earthquake in Türkiye, Dilek was asleep when it struck.

“We were all fast asleep. We happened to be sleeping altogether in the living room as it was quite cold, which we are so thankful for as it saved our lives. As a result of the earthquake, a lot of things around the house collapsed, even in our bedrooms where we should have been sleeping.”

Fortunately Dilek and her family were able to escape outside. But the danger was far from over. “Even then, we could hear things falling inside the house. We were so frightened. It felt like the ground was going to collapse in on us.”

“When we were outside, we were all hugging each other to keep ourselves still. But the earthquake was so powerful that we kept falling; it was also raining so the ground was already very unstable.”

After the earthquake Dilek spent two nights staying with her sister-in-law. She then moved to a ‘tent site’ set up for families after the earthquakes. But after bad weather knocked down many of the tents, Dilek decided to move back home. The house was badly damaged.

“Right now, the home is registered as 50 percent damaged, so we are waiting to hear whether it needs to be demolished because it is too unsafe. We feel like we are in limbo. We hope to stay in the house, but we really do not know yet.”

We were able to support Dilek with a tent, hygiene kit, mattress and blankets. Dilek planned on using the tent to sleep at night, helping her family sleep more securely.

When asked if she wanted to add anything else to add, Dilek wanted to say thank you. “We just want to say thank you. We are so grateful for your presence here.”

Thank God we are alive”

When the earthquake struck Türkiye, Huseyin and his family were staying with his mother. The stress of the earthquake caused Huseyin to have a panic attack and vertigo. As a result he stayed inside during the earthquake and could not get outside until after it was over. His wife, Songul, chose to stay by his side. She remembers the terror of that evening.

“That night, I didn’t think we would survive. My husband’s head started spinning, I could not leave him even though he told me to. I thought the house would fall over our heads. The screams from my son outside the house… he was screaming ‘Mum, Dad, please get out. Please come out’ but we weren’t able to. That fear, that worry…”

Since the earthquakes Huseyin has been out of work. His son, Kamil, has also been unable to go to school. Huseyin is very worried about the impact of the earthquake on Kamil. “His fears and anxiety [are a concern]. Psychologically he was very affected. He kept asking me ‘am I going to die?’”

Through this hardship the family have remained close. They were supported with a new tent, household items, and solar lights from ShelterBox, working with Rotary. This has helped improve their living conditions. “[The tent] has really helped because for a week we slept in the car. It was cold and cramped. But now, we can sleep in our tent … we find comfort in this. Many thanks and much gratitude.”

“The only thing I think about now is ‘Thank God we are alive”.

Huseyin, his wife Songul, and son Kamil outside the tent they received after the earthquake in Türkiye


Watch our video ‘In the Cold Night’ narrated by Imelda Staunton is based on the experiences of people caught up in the Türkiye earthquakes. It features a story by Sarah Tagholm and illustrations by Karen George.