South Africans feared trapped in Earthquake rubble in Turkey prison

Written by Annette Olinga

The South African Ambassador to Turkey, Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, confirmed on Tuesday that during Monday’s devastating earthquakes, a prison housing seven South Africans had collapsed in the country.

Ambassador Letsatsi-Duba stated that her team is unaware of the extent of the damage or the number of South Africans who have survived. No other South Africans have been reported to have been affected by the earthquake, however, the fate of those in the collapsed prison remains a concern.

“We don’t have any people that are working in the area. We are told the prison has also collapsed but we don’t know as yet whether we have survivors or whether people are still trapped under the rubble. We are waiting, anxiously so, to receive information,” said Letsatsi-Duba.

The humanitarian aid organization, Gift of the Givers, has announced its plan to dispatch a team to assist with search-and-rescue efforts in Turkey. The organisation predicts that the death toll in both Turkey and Syria will rise as search efforts continue.

President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed his profound sadness on behalf of the South African government and people, regarding the massive loss of life and extent of injuries inflicted by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria. “The nation and government are deeply grieved by the unimaginable loss of life in Turkey and Syria. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families who have lost loved ones or are searching for missing relatives. We extend our best wishes for a full recovery to the survivors who were injured,” President Ramaphosa said.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated regions in Turkey and Syria resulted in at least 4,800 fatalities and numerous injuries. 

The World Health Organization has alerted that the death toll from the disaster could increase to a staggering 20,000 as rescue operations persist in the hope of finding survivors amidst the rubble.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for solidarity and collective effort in aiding those affected by the disaster, many of whom were already in need of humanitarian assistance. “The United Nations is mobilizing to support the emergency response, and we must come together to aid all those impacted by this tragedy,” he said.

Several countries, including South Africa, are joining forces to provide aid. Qatar announced its intention to initiate relief flights to Turkey for the purpose of transporting disaster management teams to areas affected by the earthquake. The European Union has mobilized over 10 emergency and medical teams, and other nations including the UK, Canada, Israel, Russia, and China have pledged their support. The US held a moment of silence in honor of the victims and called on countries to provide humanitarian aid.

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Annette Olinga

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