‘Children were so scared’: Left terrified and freezing, homeless earthquake victims travel for days to seek refuge

Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated southern Turkey and northern Syria on Monday.

People have taken refuge in shopping malls, stadiums, mosques and community centres after their homes were destroyed in the disaster.

Some 1,500 people are living in hastily erected tents in Sanliurfa, one of Turkey’s cities hit hardest by the earthquake.

Turkey-Syria earthquake – live updates

One survivor told Kay Burley on Sky News that he and his family spent two days in the rain and freezing conditions before reaching the makeshift shelters.

Mahmood and his five young children are among 25 people sleeping on the floor in a small white tent as aftershocks tremble through the area.

“There was nothing left standing” in his hometown, he said, adding that they were surrounded by rubble.

“We were terrified of staying there, it was total devastation so we can’t stay there. It is horrible.

“Everyone is too scared to go into apartment blocks and houses. No one would dare.”

He said he was thankful to have some aid from the authorities, but there was no electricity or heating – they do not know how long they will be there.

Mahmood’s nephew, holding his baby daughter, explained she cried and was unable to sleep due to the cold.

“She’s not been able to sleep at night, she’s crying all the time because of the cold. The situation is very tough, very hard.”

‘We will die freezing from the cold’

Elsewhere, a three-year-old boy was among the people pulled from the wreckage of collapsed buildings in Turkey last night, as rescue crews toiled across the country and its neighbour, Syria, 48 hours after the quake struck.

Arif Kaan was trapped beneath concrete slabs and rebar in Kahramanmaras in sub-zero temperatures while rescuers cut the debris from around him, all the while trying not to trigger another collapse.

His father, Ertugrul Kisi, sobbed as Arif was pulled free and rushed to an ambulance.

“For now, the name of hope in Kahramanmaras is Arif Kaan,” a Turkish television reporter proclaimed.

But with one day left in what experts have called the “critical” first 72 hours, these moments of hope are expected to occur less and less frequently.

And once survivors have been rescued they face another crisis – the cold.

Many in Turkey have had to sleep in cars, outside or in government shelters.

“We don’t have a tent, we don’t have a heating stove, we don’t have anything,” said Aysan Kurt, 27.

“Our children are in bad shape. We are all getting wet under the rain and our kids are out in the cold.

“We did not die from hunger or the earthquake, but we will die freezing from the cold.”

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‘Terrifying experience’

Canan Severoglu, 40, was in the heart of the Turkish city of Gaziantep when the earthquake struck.

The director of GEO, an educational company, was on the 10th floor of the Divan hotel when the tremors began. She woke up at 4.15am with what she thought was a “nightmare”.

“I couldn’t even stand up. It was such a terrifying experience. People ran down the stairs barefoot and in pyjamas and out of the hotel. It was snowing and we were so cold.”

Ms Severoglu got into her car and welcomed in strangers so they could stay out of the blistering conditions. She spoke to one lady who experienced the Izmit earthquake in 1999, who said this one was much stronger.

She drove out of the epicentre to a country house close to Gaziantep airport.

“In one room there were 30 people. Children were so scared and are still shaking.”

Today, she went back to the centre and saw the collapsed buildings.

“It’s so scary as I have friends in those buildings. We prayed in front of them – we just wanted to hear a voice.”

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