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Turkiye earthquake survivor shares first-hand experience in UN address

May 18, 2023 at 6:41 pm

A view of a barely standing building during debris removal efforts continuing after devastating earthquakes hit multiple provinces of Turkiye including Hatay, on April 06, 2023 [Metin Aktaş – Anadolu Agency]

A young earthquake survivor from Turkiye shared his first-hand experience of two devastating earthquakes on 6 February with the international community in his address to the UN General Assembly, highlighting the importance of disaster preparedness, Anadolu News Agency reports.

Mustafa Kemal Kilinc, 23, is a college student from Hatay, one of the worst-hit cities in Turkiye in the magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes.

Kilinc, on Thursday, attended a high-level meeting at the UN headquarters of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a landmark international agreement adopted in 2015.

Kilinc was visiting his family when he was abruptly awakened from a deep sleep by powerful tremors.

“My bed was shaking hard. When I tried to get up, the ground was shaking so violently that I thought it was going to swallow me,” he said. “There was destruction all around us … it was a horrible experience.”

“When the sun came up, we saw the extent of the destruction around us more clearly. Countless buildings were in ruins and people were on the streets, homeless. Not only my hometown, Hatay, but 10 more provinces in Turkiye were directly hit by the earthquakes,” he recalled.

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“Imagine that one out of every five buildings in Manhattan was totally destroyed. Some of the places from my childhood memories no longer exist. I am here today because our building did not collapse.”

Torn between the joy of good news and the sadness of bad news for several days, Kilinc and his family went through extreme emotions following the deadly earthquakes.

Kilinc thanked foreign search and rescue teams for their support to the Turkish people and called on the international community to be prepared for natural disasters.

“We cannot predict natural disasters, but we can certainly be prepared whenever and wherever they happen. This is why I told you my story. So you understand what a disaster victim feels and experiences,” he said.

“I hope that, as a result of your work here, there will be less disaster victims like myself around the world.”

More than 50,000 people were killed in powerful earthquakes that struck southern Turkiye on 6 February.

The magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes, centered in Kahramanmaras province, affected more than 13 million people across 11 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye, Elazig and Sanliurfa.

Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, also felt the strong tremors that struck Turkiye in fewer than 10 hours.

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