Reports | 21 03 2023Iman al-Hamrawy
Nothing but darkness, smell of dust, and the roof and walls falling over Shaza and her 13-year-old son: Oday. That’s how they both spent the near-death critical early hours of February 6, losing any hope of surviving.
“An hour and a half after losing my consciousness, I opened my eyes. Everything was dark, and the silence was only broken by my son calling me: ‘reach out your hand and pull me out, mum.’,” Shaza describes what it was like during the first moments after she realized that the house had fallen on top of them in Antakya due to the destructive earthquake.
It was almost impossible for 36-year-old Shaza to survive: she couldn’t move, and she wasn’t yet aware of what had happened.
As Shaza and her son were asleep, at 04:19 a.m., two magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 earthquakes hit Southern Turkey ــــ Including Antakya. The quakes were followed by strong aftershocks, killing more than 50 thousand people and causing major damage, according to AFAD.
In 2015, after surviving the shelling in Syria, Shaza seeked refuge in Turkey. However, she was once again followed by death on the day of the earthquake where she was living in Akevler, Antakya.
The earthquake was a different experience for Shaza: in seconds, she found herself under the rubble with her son.
“At 4 o’clock, I felt something wasn’t right. As the earthquake was only 3 seconds long, where I was, I didn’t have the time to realize what was going on. I was in a room, and my son Oday was in another”.
“In the first second of the earthquake, the house tilted to the right side and the wall clock fell down. I then felt the danger. The wall tilted to the left side, so I put the pillow over my head. And, in the third second, we were under the rubble,” Shaza explains to Rozana what happened.
Antakya, the capital of Turkey’s Hatay, is one of the areas left most devastated and affected by the earthquake that hit both Turkey and Syria.
“The roof of the house fell over my head, and I lost my consciousness for nearly an hour and a half. I woke up to the sound of my cell’s alarm clock at 05:30. Everything was dark, so I figured there’s been a deadly and devastating earthquake,” Shaza explains.
“Nothing but Oday calling me: ‘reach out your hand and pull me out, mum.’,” she continued. As surviving was almost impossible, according to her, there’s been tens of attempts to emerge from the rubble.
The number of buildings collapsed due to the earthquake that hit southern Turkey, until mid February, has reached 6444, according to AFAD.
Small Hole to Survival
Near Shaza, there was a no more than 10 cm diameter hole that sparked a glimmer of hope. “I was out of Oxygen. So, at that moment, I recited both shahadas (declaration of faith) and told myself that it was the Promised Day”.
My thoughts were interrupted by my son crying for help: “Mum, I beg you, don’t leave me!”.
When a long time had passed without moving, and without hope that rescuers would arrive, Shaza tried with all her might to widen the hole. But every time she did so, an aftershock would hit and close what she’d opened.
“I started to call for help, but no one heard me. No one,” Shaza explains.
Shaza was stuck under the roof and the closet. Only her free hands could help her and her son survive. “I pushed the dust that was in the hole with all my strength, and then I heard someone coming. So, I called for help: pull my son out, and leave me”.
Shaza was under the rubble for three hours. When the hole was wide enough, she called again for help. Someone was out there, and helped get her out.
She emerged from the rubble, and ran to people asking them to help get her son out. But no one responded, as they were helpless and in shock. “I went back to my son, so that he won’t be by himself”.
Shaza’s Destroyed House
The Green Circle Shows the Hole That Was the Reason She Survived, According to Her.
Five hours went by. At 09:30, on Monday morning, she spotted friends of her husband (who’s in Austria) looking for her and her son.
10 Hours Under Rubble
Oday was under the rubble for 10 hours, and getting him out was difficult. In those moments, he was telling me: “I am thirsty, mum. Don’t let me die alone, mum. I don’t want to die”.
“I promised him that I won’t leave him,” Shaza recalls.
Some people came, and started to dig with some simple methods. After more than ten hours, they saved Oday. “I can’t describe how happy I was that he made it out alive”.
“We took Oday somewhere far from the center of the city, until he regained consciousness. Meanwhile, the aftershocks were continuing, the rain was falling, and it was cold,” Shaza explains.
The Syrian lady decided to go to Ankara with her friends. At first, she went to a hospital so that she’d check on her son. “Tests showed that both kidneys were not working, but they went back to normal in days”.
“This is part of what we’ve lived and gone through. It’s impossible to document what happened to us. Nothing says how much we suffered,” Shaza, who is currently staying at a dorm room, concludes.
In its latest statement, AFAD reported that the loss of life in the earthquakes increased to 50,096; while the number of injured was 107,204.
The toll in Turkey included 6,660 foreign nationals, mostly Syrians, according to the Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu.
According to media reports, the earthquake has destroyed everything in the affected city of Antakya: old and new buildings, old mosques, churches, the synagogue, restaurants, and even stores. Electricity, water, natural gas, and communication were cut off.
According to official statistics in 2022, Hatay has a population of 1,670,000 people. More than a quarter of whom live in the province’s center of Antakya.
Syrians living in Hatay are estimated to be more than 354,000, and it’s the fourth province most populated with Syrians, according to the website of the Presidency of Migration Management, which adds a new misfortune to the misfortune of being refugees. In total, 3,453,497 Syrian refugees are living in Turkey.