A Co Antrim barber who has lost at least five family members in the earthquake in Turkey has urged that future houses in vulnerable areas are built to be more safe.
Engin Calar, who runs a barber shop business in Carrickfergus, has lost his brother’s wife and two of their daughters, including a three-year-old girl whose twin survived.
His cousin and her daughter have also died, as well as some of his sisters-in-law.
He is originally from the city of Iskenderun in the south of Turkey, close to the Syrian border.
More than 28,000 people had been confirmed dead in Turkey and Syria, with work ongoing to try to rescue people trapped in the rubble.
Mr Calar described enduring days of agonising waiting for news, and said he knows of friends from his home city who are still trapped under rubble.
He told the PA news agency of being woken at 4am on Sunday by a phone call from one of his brothers telling him about the quakes.
They did not know then the full extent of their loss and communication was difficult.
“I tried to speak with my family but they had no internet, no electricity, no water, and I couldn’t get through to them,” he said.
“I had to wait for hours to be able to contact them. I was able to speak to my youngest brother, and he told me about the buildings that had collapsed.
“They always talk about the risk of earthquakes in Turkey, but the government wasn’t ready for it, the scale of it.
“My mum and dad survived, I finally got the chance on Friday to speak to my dad and they are okay, but devastated at all those who have died.”
Mr Calar closed his business on Monday and Tuesday, before reopening on Wednesday to try to take his mind off what was happening.
His brother, who he runs the shop with, has travelled to Turkey to help their family, while he remains behind running the business.
“I didn’t open because of the shock and I wanted to keep trying to speak to my family,” Mr Calar said.
“I still have friends who are trapped under the rubble and they haven’t been able to get out yet, they are still waiting for help and will maybe die, all we can do is hope they can get out.
“But being at home by myself and seeing the coverage on TV made it worse, because you’re just imagining your family in that situation, I’m heartbroken at seeing the scenes.
“Now people have no shelter, no food, no blankets and it’s very cold, maybe minus six.
“It’s very hard, staying at home and not talking to anybody wasn’t good for my mental health, so I came back to work to take my mind off it as much as I can.
“But my family is there, I want to do something, but money doesn’t help at the minute as there is nothing you can spend it on.
“All I can do is wait for news.”
Mr Calar has been living in Northern Ireland for 16 years after travelling over in his 20s to work as a barber with his brother, who was already in the region.
He remembers an earthquake in his home city when he was 12, but said it was on nowhere near the same scale as what happened last weekend.
“I could feel it, but it wasn’t a disaster like this one, but around 100 years ago in the area there was an earthquake and 250,000 people died,” he said.
“The collapsing buildings are what killed people, they are all big concrete buildings, not like houses in Northern Ireland.
“Those big houses couldn’t stand up to the earthquakes.
“I think almost 80 per cent of the buildings in the city I come from have collapsed following the quakes. Some buildings are still standing but they’re so damaged you can’t live in them.”
Mr Calar urged that all areas across the world which are vulnerable to quakes ensure that buildings are designed as far as possible to withstand them to avoid future tragedies.
“This is nature, you can’t do anything about it, just make sure people’s homes are safe,” he added. – PA