An update from a Syrian teacher who lost her home and loved ones in the earthquakes
After three weeks, NPR's Leila Fadel speaks again with Assalah Shikhani, a Syrian refugee who lost family members and her home when an earthquake shattered parts of Turkey and Syria.
Updated February 9, 2023 at 3:37 PM ET
Over 20,000 people are dead from the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, according to the Associated Press.
The Turkish government reported that over 3,000 buildings have collapsed.
Assalah Shikhani, 35, is one of the hundreds of thousands who have been left homeless by the earthquakes. She lives with her two daughters Lilian and Sawsan in southern Turkey.
She fled from the war in Syria 12 years ago and came to Turkey as a refugee. She's a teacher at a school for other Syrian refugees, funded and run by the Karam Foundation, a nonprofit that helps Syrian refugees in Syria, Turkey and the U.S.
Now she and her family have been forced out of their home again.
On Thursday, Shikhani spoke with Morning Edition's Leila Fadel from Antakya, Turkey. She said she had not seen any help and people were still under the rubble of collapsed buildings.
"Nobody digs them out, nobody. Antakya is a ghost city. Nothing there, no life at all."
Shikhani and her family have no place to stay. The group has 12 women and eight children, including babies. She called her employer for help and said they were coming to take her to Reyhanli, another city in Turkey.
The digital highlights have been edited for length and clarity.
On the start of the earthquakes
When we're out I don't see the rest of the family. We don't know where they are. With no hijab, with no shoes, just with pajamas, I was running and shouting with the names of my daughters "Where are you? Where are you?" I found them, finally, Alhamdulillah [thank God].
I heard a big noise, and the quake begins. I put my daughters under the table. Everything fell down on us. So no electricity...it's so dark. I try to get my daughters out of the building. There is a small hole. We make all the kids go out, one by one...
And it was heavy, heavy, heavy rain, and cold. So I take all my daughters, and my brother's wife, his kids, my dad and my mom to the park. And then went back with my brother to get my two aunts, they are old, out of the building. We put them on our back and take them out.
When we're out I don't see the rest of the family. We don't know where they are. With no hijab, with no shoes, just with pajamas, I was running and shouting with the names of my daughters "Where are you? Where are you?"
I found them, finally, Alhamdulillah [thank God].
More than 300 thousand people are now homeless
I have a five-year-old and a 14-year-old. We're going to another place because they kicked us out today. We flee, we went to the camp. They said there is a camp for Antakya people. We came yesterday. And he said okay, I will give you a tent. I stayed two hours in the cold with my daughters. Then he said I'm so sorry, there is no one for you... he let me with my daughters out. I stayed in the car yesterday. And today again.
'There is no police, no rescue teams'
We don't see any people. We don't know what happened. We don't know the news. We don't know where we have to go. There is no police, no rescue teams. Even for medical issues, we don't have centers. Nobody tells us what to do.
In Antakya, nothing here. Nothing. We don't see any people. We don't know what happened. We don't know the news. We don't know where we have to go. There is no police, no rescue teams. Even for medical issues, we don't have centers. Nobody tells us what to do.
We stayed two days in this park. Two days.
What the people did, they went to the markets. They ruin the doors and take out everything inside. Just to eat. We're forced to do that.
For a toilet, there is no place. We do it in front of each other.
People are surrounded by death
All the kids, they are crying. They need milk. There is no milk. No blankets...
We don't have phones. We don't know what's happened. Many of the kids are under the ground. They died. My two uncles' families died. We have a woman, she died because a wall fell down on her. She was 23. She had three kids. She has died. The hospital is damaged. Collapsed. Totally. She died with us in the car.
The audio version of the interview with Assalah Shikhani was edited by Olivia Hampton. The digital version was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi. contributed to this story
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.