A frantic search is underway for scores of people who went missing when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated Turkey and parts of Syria on Monday, killing at least 2,600 across the region.
The Grand Isias hotel in the Turkish city of Adıyaman was one of countless buildings that collapsed when the earthquake hit around 4 a.m. local time, leaving guests—including two student volleyball teams and a group of tour guides, according to local reports—trapped in the rubble.
Sefa Veysal, a 28-year-old tour guide who was staying in the hotel for a tourism training course along with some 40 other guides, is one of those missing, according to his brother Ahmet and friend Sevim Temel. The pair—who live in Cappadocia, about a five hour drive from Adıyama—told The Daily Beast that they have not heard from Sefa since the earthquake hit.
“I’m feeling desperate, because I’m so sorry my country is getting destroyed and no one can do anything,” Temel said, adding that her city was still experiencing intense aftershocks from the earthquake. “We’re just watching the news. When we hear an earthquake we run outside without clothes, without jackets.”
Ahmet, meanwhile, decided to drive to Adıyaman to look for his brother, and was still en route to the city when he spoke with The Daily Beast.
Temel said that another one of her friends is “now sleeping in her car” after the earthquake damaged her apartment building in Adıyaman. “She has a little baby. When the building was shaking all she was thinking about was her baby, protecting her baby’s head. They’re now out on the street,” she told The Daily Beast.
According to local reports, two volleyball teams staying in the hotel, including one made up of secondary schoolboys, have been missing since the earthquake left the building in ruins. Family members and friends of the missing athletes have been sharing names and photos of their loved ones across social media, desperately seeking updates as rescue efforts continue.
Footage published by local news outlets show a massive pile of rubble where the Grand Isias once stood, as ambulances and first responders rush toward the premises.
“Everyone is putting their heart and soul into efforts, although the winter season, cold weather and the earthquake happening during the night make things more difficult,” Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Monday, calling the quake a “historic disaster.”
U.S. aid efforts are “already underway” in the wake of the crisis, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who added that the Biden administration is “determined to do all that we can to help those affected by these earthquakes in the days, weeks, and months ahead.”
“Our teams are deploying quickly to begin to support Turkish search and rescue efforts and address the needs of those injured and displaced by the earthquake,” President Joe Biden said Monday. “U.S.-supported humanitarian partners are also responding to the destruction in Syria.”
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