THE family of a Syrian refugee from Enniskillen survived the deadly earthquake in Turkey, but only after being trapped under rubble for two days and then enduring Monday’s second huge quake.
For more than a week, Ali Swidani had been desperately trying to get in touch with his sister Amarea and her family who had been living near the region in southern Turkey where the first earthquake struck on Monday, February 6.
“I found out [last] Wednesday night that my sister and her husband and their three kids are alive,” Mr Swidani said.
“My sister and her daughter are in one of the field hospitals. They are injured, but not seriously. For more than two days they were all under the rubble until they were saved by rescuers.”
However, they were still not safe as on Monday a 6.4 magnitude earthquake suddenly struck in southern Turkey’s Hatay province where they now are.
“It was like it was happening to them again. They were very scared as many buildings were not stable around them,” Mr Swidani said.
“Some people were killed when it happened at night. It was another big earthquake. They are still safe, thank God, but I’m still very worried about them.”
Mr Swidani’s sister Amarea, her husband Mohammad Alawad, and children Yahea, 18, Sham, 16, and Ahmad, 14, moved to Turkey from Syria eight years ago as refugees.
Turkish authorities have recorded more than 6,000 aftershocks since the first earthquake hit on February 6, but it was reported that Monday’s tremor was much stronger than the previous ones.
“They are now without a house or place to live. Some aid has come to their area but it is still not enough,” Mr Swidani said. “Hopefully, I will be able to contact them soon and hear their voices again.”
When Mr Swidani, who is originally from Damascus, first arrived in Enniskillen four years ago with his family from Syria, he knew no one and spoke very little English.
Today he plays an important role in helping Syrian refugees integrate into the local community.
He volunteers as a translator for ERANO, a refugee and newcomers support organisation based in Omagh with outreach clinics in Fermanagh, and is also a student at Enniskillen’s South West College where he is studying an advanced English course.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition