UAE: Syrian, Turkish expats reach out to families back home as earthquakes strike region
Published: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 3:20 PM
Last updated: Mon 6 Feb 2023, 3:29 PM
Many UAE residents woke up worried this morning as news of a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria early Monday.
They made frantic calls to their families and friends back home to check on their whereabouts.
People in Turkey, Lebanon and Syria were jolted out of their sleep in the pre-dawn hours.
UAE residents who spoke to extended families and friends said their kin narrated how buildings were flattened and strong aftershocks continued.
Osama Ojjeh, Dubai resident since 2013, whose wife lives in Syria, says he was extremely tense this morning.
“My wife and my grandmother are still in Damascus. As soon as I woke up, I heard the news, and I called them both. They were sleeping at that time. They said the whole house was shaking. They woke up and couldn’t sleep after that as aftershocks continued up until 6.30am. They felt dizzy, I was extremely worried that it might hit another time. When I heard the voice of my wife, it was such a relief to know that she was holding up as well as she could in the given situation. It was the first time that she experienced an earthquake, and it was a very strong quake and extremely scary for everyone. I really hope that all the injured are now rescued and taking care of,” says Ojjeh.
UAE expats said that their families told them that rescue workers searched for survivors, cutting tangles of metal and giant piles of concrete, at many of these Middle Eastern cities.
R.S, a resident originating from Lebanon, said, “It was very scary back home. It reached 4.7 on the Richter scale and the earthquake lasted for about 40 seconds, at around 3.17am. My family stayed in the bathroom for 10 minutes and we had some broken glass as well. I know that many people slept in their cars and those who went out had to deal with a very stormy and rainy night. It was more the scare than actual damage.”
“In Tripoli, people started firing gunshots to wake up those who were sleeping to get them to leave their apartments, because the buildings are very old there,” R.S added.
Dubai resident Faten spoke of her relief at having been able to contact her family in Syria. “As soon as I heard about the quake I called my family,” she said. “They live near Lattakia.”
According to the Syrian expat, her family spent the wee hours of the morning on the streets. “When they felt the quake, they went down to the street. It was very cold and raining a lot in my city. But thankfully, they didn’t face any major difficulties. Only a few balconies in their house were slightly damaged. I am thankful that they are safe.”
Faten also managed to speak to her friends in Turkey. “My friends live in Istanbul,” she said. “I have been able to speak to them and luckily they are all safe.”
Turkish resident, Erdal Acar, who has been living in Dubai since 2005, says, “I have my parents and friends back home. I spoke to them. I am glad they are all doing fine. My parents live in a place called Batman."
"There they felt the tremors from the quake, but it wasn’t as bad. But in cities like Diyarbakir, which is only 45 minutes away from where my family lives, it was really bad, with rescue teams rushing people on stretchers. Other affected areas in Turkey include Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis, Malatya, Maras, Adana, Adiyaman, Osmaniye, Mardin, Urfa that witnessed severe tremors with buildings tumbling down like house of cards.”
Syrian expat Mohammed Yaseen said he spoke to his parents and siblings in his hometown of Tartus. “Everyone rushed outside,” he said. “They spent the whole night outdoors fearing for aftershocks. I spoke to them in the morning and they were about to go to sleep because they were not able to sleep at night.”
Yaseen said he was concerned for those who were closer to the epicenter of the quake. “Our area did not have a lot of damages,” he said. “Just a few old buildings had some cracks. But I’m praying for those whose entire houses and livelihoods have been destroyed.
Faris Ahmed, a Syrian expat residing in Dubai, said that it was unfortunate and prayed for the well-being of the affected families. He along with his friends has taken up the initiative to help those who have been impacted.
“I am from the central part of the country and thank the Almighty that it is safe there. However, we are coming together to help the affected persons with medical and food supplies,” said Ahmed.
He adds, “My friends are in touch with people back home who can help us reach the needy.”
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