Turkey-Syria earthquake… Ghanaian footballer Priscilla Okyere gives eyewitness account
Ghana midfielder Priscilla Okyere is terrified of going to sleep, afraid that another earthquake might happen when she is in bed.
The 27-year-old plays for Hatayspor in southern Turkey, and is a survivor of the devastating quake that struck there on Monday.
The earthquake is already considered the worst worldwide in a decade. So far, it is known to have killed over 20,000 people in Turkey and Syria – a toll that will certainly rise.
Hatayspor is the club whose men’s team Okyere’s compatriot Christian Atsu plays for. Atsu, along with the club’s sporting director Taner Savut, remains missing.
“I have not been sleeping for four days – I’m so scared to go to sleep,” Okyere told BBC Sport Africa.
“Even today, we had a safe place to sleep. I haven’t closed my eyes from 5am til now.
“When someone bangs the door, I wake up because I’m scared. I don’t want to close my eyes and realise this thing is happening again.”
Okyere is now in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, after her coach arranged for her and her seven roommates to leave Hatay after the earthquake.
But the ordeal left her scarred.
“I was terrified. I cried for days,” she explained.
“I can’t imagine how lucky we were to get out from that situation, because most people couldn’t get out. But we were able to.”
Okyere joined Hatayspor six months ago from Israeli club Tel-Aviv Beersheva.
Like most people who live in southern Turkey, the club’s players had felt tremors before. So when the earthquake struck in the early hours of Monday, she believed it was normal.
“We were coming from a game in Istanbul and we weren’t home until around 2.am,” she said.
“We had to shower and then get some sleep. At first, I thought I was dreaming because since we came to Hatay, I experienced (tremors) it two times. Sometimes the building would just shake within 30 seconds and it stops.
“When it happened, I thought it was a normal thing but I realised this was much more intense than the previous ones.”
She went to check on her team-mates, and then hurried outside as all around her began to crumble.
“When I got down, the buildings were just collapsing, and everybody was crying, trying to find shelter,” she said.
“It was raining heavily outside, and everyone was cold. We were not wearing any jackets – nothing. We had gone outside barefoot.
“We weren’t even thinking about how cold we were at that moment. What we wanted to think about was how to get our passports.
“We had to find a shelter in someone’s car for almost five hours before the whole thing calmed down, and then we were able to go back to the house.”
Though badly damaged, the building Okyere and her teammates lived in had not collapsed. But they had to leave the area, and with all public transport suspended, they wandered the streets looking for food.
Okyere’s compatriot Christian Atsu plays for Hatayspor’s men’s team and remains missing.
“We don’t know anything about the men’s team because they live far from us, even though we live in the same city,” she explained.
“But our brother (Christian) Atsu, we always talk to him on phone. He texts us all the time.
“Since the incident happened, nobody knows his whereabouts. We don’t even know what is happening.” — BBC