Disasters & Accidents

Turkish soccer fans unite to help neighbors after earthquake

By Lara Villalón

Izmir, Turkey, Nov 3 (efe-epa).- Food and clothing donations decked in red and yellow sit in front of the Emrah apartments, one of the buildings that collapsed after a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey on Friday.

They are the colors of the soccer club Göztepe, the only one in Izmir that regularly plays in Turkey’s top-flight league the Süper Lig.

Its fans have united to help with the crisis caused by the earthquake, which has killed 107 people and injured more than 1,000 others.

About 500 supporters have mobilized to assist their neighbors, using a basketball court as a store for clothes, toys and hygiene products under a huge Göztepe flag.

“We’ve been here for four days. We take shifts to attend to people who have become homeless and to rescue teams 24 hours a day. We sleep here too,” one of the volunteers, named only as Gülsah, tells Efe.

Volunteers help support those carrying out rescue work in the Bayrakli neighborhood, the worst affected by the earthquake, and also go to parks where tents have been set up for the more than 5,000 people who have been left homeless by the disaster.

“We started with a table offering hot chocolate and then volunteers came to bring us things. Now we go to the tents because people are embarrassed to ask for things. But they don’t have anything, they had to run from their houses with the clothes on their backs,” Gülsah explains.

Another young fan and volunteer, who was named only as Can, gives shoes and children’s books to some girls.

“Football unites and in this kind of crisis we have to be more united than ever. We will be here until everyone has a home,” Can says.

Residents wearing red and yellow t-shirts gathered at Emrah apartments on Friday afternoon waiting for news of Ali Çagin Kaygusuz, a well-known young Göztepe fan and member of its supporters’ association.

Rescue teams discovered Kaygusuz’s body on Saturday afternoon, along with some of his belongings including team jerseys and tickets, which he had kept as souvenirs.

There was an outpouring of condolences and support from the club and thousands of its supporters on social media.

“It’s very hard. We were waiting for our friend Ali, everybody knows him. He was found dead. One of our friends has also lost his three-year-old son. It’s very painful,” Gülsah laments.

Rescue teams recovered 32 bodies from the Emrah apartments and rescued 15 injured people.

This included Idil Sirin, 14, who was found alive after spending 58 hours under the remains of the building.

“I have the feeling that we will be here for a month. Every night it gets colder and there are many children here. It’s difficult to manage,” Gülsah says.

She celebrates the rescue of another girl Ayda who was found alive in the ruins on Tuesday morning 90 hours after the earthquake.

“When the earthquake happened, many people were working and had their children at home because with the coronavirus they study remotely. I have four children and luckily my building didn’t collapse,” Gülsah explains.

“Many houses look like they’re fine but they’re not. They’ve suffered serious damage.” EFE-EPA

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