‘It felt like a movie’ – Christian Atsu’s teammate, Samuel Adekugbe recounts “unfathomable” Turkey earthquake

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Samuel Adekugbe, a football player for Hatayspor and a survivor of the earthquake in Turkey has narrated the incident that took many lives and left many others injured.

The Canadian who featured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup was amongst thousands of people who were affected by the earthquake that struck some cities in Turkey and Syria in the early hours of Monday.

Samuel Adekugbe was relaxing together with his teammates after Christian Atsu had come off the bench and scored in the 97th minute to give them a 1-0 home win over Kasımpaşa on Sunday evening.

“I started shaking, thinking I was having a panic attack,” said Sam Adekugbe.

“The shakes kept getting more and more severe,” continued Adekugbe. “And then I started hearing the chaos in my kitchen — plates and cups and everything flying off (the shelves) and the table falling over and the TV falling over. I had a candle on my table, and the candle fell over. And that’s when I kinda started realizing what was going on.”

It was the start of mass devastation, death and destruction in Turkey and Syria. Two earthquakes, measuring magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.5 struck the two Middle East nations, killing more than 12,000 people and living thousands more injured.

“It just felt like a movie. Everyone was outside kind of yelling. I drove (20 minutes) into the city, and that’s where I saw the devastating effects of what happened.

“You’re seeing collapsed buildings and fires and people yelling and crying. You’re seeing people digging through rubble and broken pieces of houses — things you never expect to see. And as I started driving closer to the (Hatayspor) training grounds — more towards the centre of the city — you just started seeing things, like, even worse. Roads split, bridges broken, tall-storey high-rise buildings just completely collapsed, families looking for loved ones, parents looking for their kids, kids looking for their parents …

“It was just something unfathomable,” Sam Adekugbe said in a sad tone.

The horrifying incident that killed thousands and left thousands more injured has also left thousands missing, including Sporting Director of Hatayspor, Taner Savut and Ghanaian international Christian Atsu, who was at Adekugbe’s home that night.

“People are missing, people are still missing (now). There’s no internet service. It was just hard to comprehend, and then throughout the day, you’re just trying to help people, and look for your teammates,” Adekugbe said by Zoom from Istanbul, where he was staying with Canada teammate Atiba Hutchinson.

“Then you start to see just even how much more devastating it is. You’re looking through rubble trying to find your teammates, and trying to yell for them in darkened spaces of apartments that used to be standing … it’s just something you never (thought you’d) find yourself doing. It’s something you can’t like really explain.

“It’s also people who work around the team. One of my kitmen, it turned out he died. One of the ladies who works in the kitchen, she lost her daughters and her mother,” he added.

“One of my other kitmen, his wife, she needs like urgent medical care but because the hospital was destroyed, she doesn’t have it.

“It really starts to hit home when you just see like the agony and the desperation on their faces. Also, living in a place where it’s not the most super economic power … they’re already coming from difficult places, and with everything taken away from them, it’s unfathomable how much more difficult it is.”

In an effort to help in the aftermath, Adekugbe and Hutchinson have partnered with the Canadian Red Cross, hoping for helping hands from compatriots.

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