Turkish teen filmed ‘last moments’ of earthquake-hit apartment

ADIYAMAN, Turkey (AP) – A 17-year-old high school student won Turkish hearts after filming a farewell message to his loved ones while trapped under the rubble of his home during last week’s earthquake.

Taha Erdem and his family were fast asleep when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit his hometown of Adiyaman in the early hours of February 6.

Taha was abruptly awakened by violent tremors that shook the four-story apartment building in a working-class neighborhood of the central Anatolian city.

Within 10 seconds, Taha, her mother, father and younger brother and sister were diving into the building.

He found himself alone and trapped under tons of rubble, with waves of strong aftershocks shifting the debris, squeezing his way through the jumble of concrete and twisted steel. Taha took out his cell phone and started recording a last goodbye, hoping it would be discovered after his death.

“I think this is the last video I will ever shoot for you,” he said from the cramped space, his phone shaking in his hand as tremors shook the collapsed building.

Showing remarkable resilience and bravery for a teenager who believes he is speaking his last words, he lists his injuries and talks about his regrets and the things he hopes to do if he makes it out alive. During the video, the screams of other people trapped can be heard.

“We are still shaking. Death, my friends, comes when you least expect it.” says Taha, before reciting a Muslim prayer in Arabic.

“There are many things I regret. May God forgive me of all my sins. If I make it out of here alive today, there are many things I want to do. We’re still shaking, yes. My hand isn’t shaking, it’s just the earthquake.”

The teen goes on to say that he believes his family is dead, along with many others in town, and that he will soon join them.

But Taha was destined to be among some of the first saved from the destroyed building. He was pulled out of the rubble two hours later by neighbors and taken to an aunt’s house.

Ten hours after the earthquake, her parents and siblings were also saved by locals who dug through the building’s rubble with their bare hands and whatever tools they could find.

When The Associated Press spoke with the family on Thursday, they were living in a government-provided tent, along with hundreds of thousands of others who survived the disaster that hit southern Turkey and northern Syria, killing more than 43,000.

“This is my home,” said Taha’s mother, Zeliha, 37, as she watched bulldozers dig up her old life and dump it onto heavy trucks.

“Boom-boom-boom, the building fell floor for floor on top of us,” she recalled, describing how she kept screaming her son’s name while trapped under rubble in hopes that all five of them could die together as one. family.

The Erdems’ youngest children – daughter Semanur, 13, and son Yigit Cinar, 9 – were sleeping in their parents’ bedroom when the earthquake struck.

But Taha couldn’t hear his mother’s calls through the mass of concrete. She also couldn’t hear her son’s screams in the dark, and they both believed the other was dead in the destroyed building.

It was only when Zeliha, her husband Ali, 47, a hospital cleaner, and the other children were taken to her sister’s home that it was realized that Taha had survived.

“The world was mine at that moment,” Zeliha said. “I have nothing, but I have my children.”

The story of the Erdem family is one of many moving tales of human courage that emerged from the area of ​​widespread disaster. Many vividly recount the horrors of being trapped under their homes.

Ibrahim Zakaria, a 23-year-old Syrian man who was rescued in the Syrian coastal town of Jableh on Feb. 10, told the AP he survived by licking water running down the wall beside him, drifting in and out of consciousness. hope of survival in your waking moments.

“I almost gave up because I thought I was going to die,” he said from his hospital bed. “I thought, ‘There is no escape.’”

In the Turkish city of Gaziantep, 17-year-old Adnan Muhammed Korkut was trapped for four days before being rescued. He told the private IHA news agency that he became so thirsty that he drank his own urine.

Muhammet Enes Yeninar, 17, and his 21-year-old brother were rescued after 198 hours in the vicinity of Kahramanmaras.

He said they cried for the first two days, mostly wondering about the mother and whether she had survived, the IHA reported. Later, they began to comfort each other – “talking about brotherhood” and eating protein powder.

Also in Kahramanmaras, Aleyna Olmez, 17, was rescued after 248 hours under rubble. “I tried to spend time alone,” she said.

Remarkable survival stories often emerge during disasters, especially after earthquakes, when the world’s media chronicles the dwindling hope of recovering survivors with each passing hour.

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a 16-year-old girl was rescued in Port-Au-Prince 15 days after an earthquake devastated the city. Three years later, a woman trapped under a collapsed building in Dhaka, Bangladesh was saved after 17 days.


Baendieck reported from Istanbul.

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