Christian Atsu
Christian Atsu

Ghanaians recount experiences in Turkiye earthquake - Christian Atsu rescued

While he might have made the headlines because of his status as an international footballer, Ghanaian star, Christian Atsu Twasam, was not the only one who was caught in the devastating earthquake in Turkiye last Monday.

There were many other Ghanaians, some living permanently in Turkiye and others as students, who have shared stories of how they experienced the earthquake, which also hit Syria, and has so far reportedly claimed more than 6,000 lives.

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Sharing their stories with BBC’s Focus on Africa, those Ghanaians described the earthquake as a horrific and very frightening experience.

They said with their apartments badly affected, they had been left homeless and would now have to look for new places of abode.

“It was a frightening experience and I can only be thankful for being alive, although I have lost everything, as the building completely collapsed,” a survivor of the earthquake, Musah Hamid Issah, said, with others recounting similar experiences with relief.

One of the students, Nasser Abdallah, said almost immediately after the incident, members of the “Association of African Students (AFSA) in Ardana began sending messages to one another, and everybody who knows someone tried to reach him or her just to make sure everyone was accounted for”.

For most Ghanaians and many football fans, the anxious moments they went through last Monday turned to relief and joy when news broke yesterday morning that Atsu had been found alive and was receiving treatment at the hospital.

Earthquake

Parts of Turkiye and neighbouring Syria were hit by two powerful earthquakes within a matter of minutes. The first one, measuring 7.8 magnitude and the second 7.5, hit south-eastern Turkiye and northern Syria during the early hours of last Monday.

Areas in Turkiye that were hard hit by the quake included residential areas, Antalya, Diyarbakir, Kahramanmaraş, Adıyaman and Hatay.

According to multiple media sources, the death toll as of yesterday had reached 5,000, while many others were being found alive but injured in the ongoing search-and-rescue mission.

More than 8,000 people had so far have pulled from the debris in Turkiye, the Turkish Vice-President, Fuat Oktay, said.

About 380,000 people have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, with others huddling in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres.

The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said 13 million people among the country’s population of 85 million were affected in some way.
Turkiye has thus declared a state of emergency in 10 provinces in order to manage the response.

So far, only vehicles carrying aid are allowed to enter the worst-hit provinces of Kahramanmaraş, Adıyaman and Hatay in order to speed up the effort.

Experiences

Mr Abdallah, a Ghanaian student studying in Adana, 150 miles from Gazientep — the city closest to the epicenter — said apart from the earthquake, they also had to deal with the rain and the cold weather, as it was still winter in Turkiye, but all that was “bearable given what others have gone through”.

“While working on my laptop around 4:15 a.m., I realised all of a sudden that my laptop had begun to shake. It started from a mild shake to a very heavy shake.

“Then the lighting system in the house also began to shake. It started from a mild to a big shake. Everything was shaking and we all ran outside," he told the BBC Africa Service.

He said people experiencing same rushed out of their apartments and assembled outside.

“It was raining; and we are in winter and so it is cold. We stood in the rain for about 45 minutes and then we all went back into our rooms.

Another Ghanaian, Ibrahim, living in Konya, together with his partner and their one-week-old baby, said he was thankful to be alive after the earthquake.

He said he lived in a furnished apartment, but now he and many of his co-workers were forced to live in the parks for now because their homes had been destroyed.

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Three Ghanaian female footballers who also play in Turkiye confirmed they were safe.

Regina Antwi, Gifty Assifuah and Queenabel Amankwah, all former players in the Ghana Women’s Premier League, told friends that they were safe, and that was confirmed by their former club, Hasaacas Ladies.

Atsu alive

For Atsu, he had to be under the rubble for over 25 hours before he was pulled out alive.

The Vice-President of Atsu’s Turkish club, Hataysor, Mustafa Özat, told Turkish radio that while Atsu had been rescued, the club’s sporting director, Taner Savut, was still in the collapsed building as of yesterday morning.

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"Christian Atsu was removed from the wreckage with injuries," Özat told Radyo Gol.

"Unfortunately, our sporting director, Taner Savut, is still under the rubble.

"Hatay was deeply affected. We are coming towards the end of the most dangerous hours," he said.

Atsu, 31, joined Hatayspor in September 2022 after a season with Saudi Arabian team Al-Raed, having left Newcastle in 2021.

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The Ghana winger scored the winning goal in the 90th minute of Hatayspor's Super Lig match against Kasimpasa last Sunday.

Former President John Mahama, who had asked for prayers, sent a post on Twitter: “This is amazing. Thank God for miracles and wishing Atsu all the best in his recovery.”

The Ghana Football Association (GFA) also tweeted: "We've received some positive news that Atsu has been successfully rescued from the rubble of the collapsed building and is receiving treatment. Let's continue to pray for Christian."

A sports journalist, Jerome Otchere, posted: “Surviving 26 hours under the heap of rubble after such a catastrophic earthquake can only be by grace.”

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