In February 2023, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Türkiye (formerly Turkey) and Syria. It was quickly followed by another earthquake, and aftershocks continued in the region. As a result, 50,000 people died and 66,000 buildings were damaged.
One of the badly affected regions was Kahramanmaraş, where Nurgül lives with her husband Imam. They lost their home the night of the earthquakes. Woken abruptly by the sound of shaking, they had only minutes to spare before their home fell to the ground. This is her story of recovery after the earthquakes.
“Life was so beautiful”
Before the earthquakes, Nurgül and Imam lived in the home they had created. She recalls her daily pleasures then.
“I would get up in the morning and drink our Nescafé with milk. After that, we would prepare breakfast. I’d sit down with my husband and chat. I’d talk to my kids. Then, we’d go for a walk. My husband and I had land, and so we’d go to the land and do some work.
“We had hopes. We had things to do. We had our plans. Then, the earthquake happened.”
For Nurgül, it was devastating that they lost everything they had worked for. “Life was so beautiful [before the earthquake]. We had hopes. We had things to do. We had our plans. The house we made with hardship, all the savings, the house we made with our hands, became one with the ground.”
"I still close my eyes as if today was that day"
On the night of the earthquake, Nurgül had gone to bed late because she had been cooking for her family.
“Eventually I went to bed, and then I woke up to this thing – a very bad noise. We were being hurled from left and right. I shouted out to my husband. I said ‘run, it’s an earthquake’ and we came out as the house were falling on us.”
Nurgül and Iman’s house completely collapsed in the earthquake. Once they were outside they found the streets filled with people who had also lost their homes. On reaching out to their sons, they were relieved to find out that they and their grandchildren were safe.
However, not everyone in Nurgül’s family was so lucky. Many family members lived in a seven story building in the neighbourhood. Nurgül’s husband Imam ran over to check on them and came back to say the building had collapsed. They both went to the building to find rubble.
Nurgül recalls, “My cousin, who lived in the building, was screaming that his daughter was under the rubble. I still can’t get his voice out of my mind – my cousin jumping in front of our car screaming that his daughter is under the rubble.
“I said to Allah, please give me strength to lift, may this concrete turn into paper. But my hands couldn’t help, my strength wasn’t enough. The stones were too heavy.”
The memories of that night continue to play out in Nurgül’s mind: “These are bitter truths that I lived through. I don’t know if these can be erased from my eyes, I don’t know if I can forget. It is very, very painful.”
“I still close my eyes as if today was that day. I’m still living that day. How ever many days have passed, it is still that day to me. I still imagine the place is swinging again, shaking. I wonder if it will happen again.”
“You have provided us with shelter, the most fundamental thing”
Since the earthquakes, Nurgül has been living in a temporary tent settlement with her husband. It is here that she received a tent from ShelterBox, along with other household items.
She said: “After all this pain, a tent made me very happy. It is very beautiful and keeps us warm. Whoever has made it, made it well.”
Nurgül is able to seek comfort in the knowledge that she has a place to sleep at night. She expressed how the support since has made a real difference: “[The tent] is very beautiful. You put together a roof over our heads; you have provided us with shelter, the most fundamental thing. I thank you for making this our home.”
Along with the tent, Nurgül also received other essential items such as a solar light, blankets, and cooking set. She rejoiced: “To receive a tent with other furnishings, makes me feel so fortunate. I am really pleased with the solar lamp. The electricity goes very often at night, so I put it next to me for when the electricity goes, and I can carry it with me.”
Although Nurgül’s future is uncertain, she concluded by sharing why ShelterBox support has been so impactful for her and her husband.
“Because every corner of [the tent] belongs to me, it feels special. I had that feeling in my own home. Although visually there isn’t any furniture as such, sentimentally it fulfils me.
“When I get in my tent and zip it up, I feel relieved. When there is no tent, the coffee I drink is not coffee. But here, in my tent, my coffee tastes like coffee.”
Image below: Sezgin Pancar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images