‘Buildings are broken’: Calgary man in Turkiye describes disaster scene post-earthquake

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Calgarians at home and abroad are reeling in the wake of a massive earthquake that struck a war-torn region near the border of Turkiye and Syria.

In the early morning hours on Monday, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck a region near the border between the two nations, killing more than 2,500 people and injuring thousands. Officials fear that death toll could climb much higher given thousands of buildings have been destroyed and many residents are likely trapped underneath the rubble.

Abdulfatah Sabouni, a Calgary business owner who moved to Canada from Aleppo, Syria, several years ago, is currently in the Turkish city of Gaziantep – 120 kilometres from Aleppo.

“At 4 a.m., I was in a hotel and I felt the building moving – it was really strong,” he said. “It was around three minutes.


“After that, I went out and about 20 minutes later, the shocks began.”

He told CTV News the devastation in the region is difficult to put into words.

“A lot of buildings are broken and there are a lot of people under the buildings as well,” he said.

Sabouni says there is a lot of anxiety right now among the survivors.

“People aren’t sleeping because nobody knows what is going on,” he said.

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“I’m worried and the people are worried, they can’t go back to their homes right now.”

He says there have been earthquakes in Turkiye before, but this time is “different.”

“It doesn’t happen like that,” Sabouni said, adding the cold weather is also a problem for people.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada “stands ready to help” the survivors, pledging support for the thousands affected by the disaster in the region.

The Conservative Party said it would also support any effort by the government to provide assistance.

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday about whether any Canadians were affected.

Officials say major aftershocks also struck near the centre of the quake, in Turkiye’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, which was felt from as far away as Cairo, Egypt.

The natural disaster is the latest incident of devastating hardship on both countries, where Syria is still wracked by civil war and Turkiye is housing millions of refugees who fled from that conflict.

The region in Turkiye hit by the earthquake sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 people were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkiye in 1999.

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(With files from the Canadian Press and Associated Press)

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