Hell was breaking loose

Bangladeshi student in Turkish city narrates horror

Faysal Mahmud, a final-year comparative theology student at Gaziantep University, was dozing off in his dormitory room when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey.

"We all got up feeling the heavy shaking. At one point, it seemed the building would collapse. I tried to get down from the bed but was advised not to by my Turkish roommate. It took two to three minutes for the massive jolt to stop," the Bangladeshi-born student told The Daily Star over the phone this evening.

"As soon as the shaking stopped, we just rushed out of the six-storey building with whatever we could hold in our hands. Cracks had appeared in the building," he went on.

"Together with other students, I am currently residing at the university's central mosque, and I'm not sure when we'll be able to return to the dorm," said Faysal during the phone call.

He is one of the 26 Bangladeshi students residing in Gaziantep, a town in southern Turkey, 50 miles off the earthquake's epicentre in Kahramanmaraş and 150 miles from the Syrian border.

Gaziantep is one of the worst-affected Turkish cities.

"I have experienced earthquakes before, but this one was absolutely terrifying. We are still experiencing aftershocks. After an interval of 15-20 minutes, aftershocks are happening. I have experienced at least 80 aftershocks so far. Even right now, the ceiling is shaking as I am talking to you," Faysal said, sounding panicked.

"It was like the hell was breaking loose. Turkish people were saying Qayamat [doomsday] has begun or Qayamat will be like this."

Faysal said he communicated with other Bangladeshis students living in the city and all of them were safe.

"However, we are not at home. The risky circumstance is that almost all the buildings in the city have developed some cracks. So, nobody can predict when a building will collapse. People sought shelter in mosques, city corporation libraries, sports centres, and other buildings for that reason."

Bad weather made things even worse for them.

"Outside, it's bitterly cold, snowing heavily, and it's raining too. It is difficult to stay outside in such bad weather. I have no idea when I can go back to the dorm," he said.

According to Faysal, people can only enter apartments after a city corporation inspection.

Food was being served by the city corporation. Besides, school authorities, owners of restaurants, and managers of hotels were providing free food and other necessities. "All are cooperating from their positions and as per their abilities," Faysal added.