Cork school group avoids Turkey earthquake due to flight stopover

Student at school in disaster zone tells principal ‘town has literally disappeared’

A Cork school principal said it was a “miracle” that a group of students and staff avoided arriving into the Turkish disaster zone where an earthquake struck on Monday.

Speaking from Istanbul, Aaron Wolfe, head of Coláiste Éamann Rís in Cork city, said the trip was part of an Erasmus project and they were due to be in Malatya - one of the worst affected cities in south-east Turkey - on Sunday.

He told RTÉ Radio on Monday that the group feared they were “cutting it too fine” after their flight from Dublin to Istanbul to make the connecting flight to Malatya and decided to stay in Istanbul for a night.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about. We’re three hours ahead in this country so we heard news about this very early, five o’clock Irish time, and we were just in shock to see that the school we were going to, the staff and the students that we were visiting, who we had built those relationships with, had been devastated,” he said.


“One of the students sent us a text saying: ‘My town has literally disappeared’. It’s horrendous, it really is.”

Earlier, the school issued a message on social media to reassure families that the group were “all fine”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost their lives and homes,” the school said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said Ireland “stands ready” to support local and international relief efforts following the earthquakes in Turkey and northwest Syria which have killed more than 2,600 people.

Mr Martin said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn of the disaster and that “Ireland stands ready to support local and international relief efforts”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was monitoring the situation closely. “Any Irish citizens that require consular assistance can contact the Embassy of Ireland in Ankara on 00 90 312 4591000,” a spokesman said.

The European Union on Monday said 10 search and rescue teams had been mobilised to assist the rescue effort.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times