UAE residents hear from quake-hit relatives in garbled phone calls

Turks and Syrians fear for families and friends as aftershocks hamper relief efforts

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LIVE: More than 1,200 killed as aftershocks shake region

UAE residents with friends and family caught up in Monday's earthquake in Turkey struggled to contact their loved ones as phone lines went down and aftershocks hampered rescue efforts.

Southern Turkey and northern Syria were rocked by a second earthquake on Monday afternoon, after the first 7.8 magnitude tremor struck in the early hours.

“I woke up this morning to find dozens of messages on my family’s group on WhatsApp, I had no idea what was happening,” said Bana Tayfour, 34, a Syrian from Hama who has lived in Dubai for 10 years.

When she finally reached her mother in Hama, she described the damage as a “scene from judgment day”.

They couldn’t walk steadily and were sent from left to right as they went down the stairs
Bana Tayfour, 34, who works in Dubai

Her mother, sister, brother-in-law and children were at home in the apartment building they live in Hama when the first quake struck just after 4am.

Wearing their pyjamas, they rushed down the stairs as the building lurched from the tremors.

“They couldn’t walk steadily and were sent from left to right as they went down the stairs, while my sister and her husband held on tight to their kids, who are 10 and eight.”

The area's residents gathered in open spaces, fearful that buildings would come down on them.

Mother-of-three Samira Hikmat, who lives in Sharjah, said her 20-year-old daughter Bayan is staying in the family's apartment in Aleppo while she studies at university.

After repeated calls, she finally answered. She said residents had gathered in the streets, away from tall buildings, in a heavy downpour of rain.

“Five minutes felt like a lifetime, our nerves barely held up,” Ms Hikmat said.

“She wasn’t able to talk at first then told her how scared she was and how drenched she was. Crowds of people were all out on the street in the rain.”

Her daughter managed to return to the apartment once the tremors subsided.

“Our apartment was badly damaged. Parts of the ceiling cracked and the windows were blown out.

“I'm looking for an airline booking to bring her back here.”

Havva Celik, a Turkish citizen working in Dubai, has friends in Hatay, one of the regions affected by the earthquake. She spent Monday trying to get in touch with them.

“I’m trying to call as many friends and family as possible. I have been trying to find out if they are OK,” said Ms Celik.

“I spoke with one friend in Hatay who was OK but could not enter their home and was waiting outside their house. But at least they were safe. Everybody is waiting and people are still searching under the buildings.”

Updated: February 06, 2023, 11:50 AM