Sorting by


Best friends, 14, born in same hospital, died together in Turkey earthquake

Selin Karakaya and Serin İpekçioğlu were born on the same day – 29 January 2009 – at the same hospital, only a few rooms away from each other.

Aged just 14, the pair died together on 6 February 2023 under the rubble of the Isias hotel in Turkey.

Selin and Serin were among 39 people from Cyprus killed in the collapse of the hotel, during the devastating earthquake which struck Turkey and Syria. Across the two countries, more than 50,000 people died.

The event was a natural disaster, but the bereaved families claim the scale of the devastation was partially man-made.

Selin and Serin, celebrating a volleyball victory. (Photo: Ruşen Karakaya)

Selin was intelligent and hardworking, her mother Ruşen Yücesoylu Karakaya says. She grew up with her best friend Serin. Inseparable from infancy, they played sports in their spare time at school.

Last February, the pair travelled together to Adıyaman, Turkey, to compete in a volleyball tournament with a group of classmates.

The volleyball team from Famagusta Turkish Education College – all of the children died in the collapse of their hotel. (Photo: Ruşen Karakaya)

Ruşen and Selin usually FaceTimed every night, but on the night of 5 February, Selin was tired – they had won a match that day and were preparing, with excitement, for the next one.

“Selin said she would get in the shower and go to bed. She texted to say, ‘night night’, as she always did. And I replied to say, ‘I love you’. She said ‘I love you too’.”

At 3.17am local time, Ruşen was woken by the earthquake that rattled her home even 400km from the epicentre.

“We ran out of the house, and I remember I took my phone. I immediately called Selin, but I couldn’t reach her,” she said.

“I texted her, saying: ‘call me’. I started calling the teachers, but there was no reply. My husband was trying too – we were trying everyone.”

Selin and her mother Ruşen. (Photo: Ruşen Karakaya)

After two anxious hours, Ruşen finally got through to one of the fathers who had accompanied his child on the trip. “The only thing I remember him saying was, ‘I can’t see the kids. There’s no kids’.”

Ruşen raced to the airport to try and fly to Selin; her husband was eventually allowed to board one of the flew flights out.

“I thought: ‘What if she’s out in the cold, or someone has taken her?’ I didn’t think the building could have collapsed,” she said.

But by the time Selin’s dad arrived, all that was left of the Isias hotel was rubble. One of the surviving teachers had clambered out of the wreckage and shouted for the children in the dark, but there was no reply.

“We thought maybe they had broken arms and legs, and they could get them out,” Ruşen said. “But the condition of the rubble was bad. There was no space for them to breathe.”

“On the second day, during the nighttime, they started finding bodies,” she said. “The first was one of the teachers. They were digging them out, one by one, still in their sleeping positions.

“They didn’t let parents near the rubble. They started using sheets to block the scene.”

It took five days to pull Selin from the rubble. She was found in her pyjamas. Her father was called to identify her in a nearby tent.

“He saw her socks,” she says. “They were new for the trip. As soon as he saw the socks, he knew it was her.”

Selin was only 14 when she died in the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria last year. (Photo: Ruşen Karakaya)

It was the single biggest tragedy in the history of northern Cyprus: 72 people died in the collapse of the Isias; 39 of them from northern Cyprus.

The collapse of the Isias not only seized dozens of young lives, but brought into question construction practices in Turkey – and possible bypassing of safety laws.

Experts told i that lives would undoubtedly have been saved had buildings been constructed to higher safety standards.

To date, 11 people have been arrested over the collapse of the Isias hotel, including its owner, Ahmet Bozkurt. Five are charged with crimes that could result in them being jailed for more than 20 years each if found guilty.

The indictment – whose plaintiffs include the prime minister of northern Cyprus, Ünal Üstel – claims that the building was illegally converted from a residence into a hotel in 2001 and that the hotel had illegally erected an additional floor.

A structural report on the hotel, published by the Eastern Mediterranean University’s Department of Civil Engineering and reported by LGC News, also alleged that inappropriate building materials were used – including low-grade concrete, gravel, and sand.

The defendants deny any wrongdoing, with the Mr Bozkurt insisting there was nothing illegal about the Isias and calling allegations of poor building “unfounded”.

Speaking in court, Mr Bozkurt said that “the only culprit is the earthquake” and noted than more than 850,000 other buildings also collapsed.

Along with the other bereaved parents, Ruşen is committed to pursuing justice for her daughter, and wants the disaster to trigger an overhaul in Turkey’s approach to safety.

“We lost our babies and they’re not coming back,” she said. “It’s not just us who lost our kids – but the kids lost across Turkey, too.

“Selin was my only daughter,” she added. “The only thing I have now is this fight for justice.”

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button