"I am still traumatised" - Malaysian student at the centre of the earthquake

09 Feb 2023 09:37am
The destruction left  behind after after a series of earthquakes hit Turkey -  AFP
The destruction left behind after after a series of earthquakes hit Turkey - AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - "Currently, even the slightest earth movement, scares me. I am still traumatised,” said Zahirul Amin Mohamad, 21, a student at Gaziantep University who is currently under the care of the Malaysian Embassy in Ankara, Turkiye.

Recalling the moments before the deadly earthquake of 7.8 in magnitude that struck Turkiye and Syria on Monday, Zahirul who is learning Islamic History at the university said he was watching television.

"We often fell minor tremors here (Gaziatep), every now and then. So, I was not bothered at first.But on Monday, after a few minor tremors. It felt different, we were really shaken.

"At first, I didn’t know what to do. My hostel is on the fifth floor and when I saw my floor mates started running down, I decided to just follow suit.

"Electricity got cut off too. I left the room only with the clothes on my back and just grabbed my phone so that I can call back home,” he told Bernama via a telephone interview from the Malaysian Embassy in Ankara, Turkiye today.

The quake, which was centred in Turkiye’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, about 78 kilometres from Gaziantep, and has so far killed 10,000 people in both Turkiye and Syria, is said to be the strongest to hit the region in more than 100 years.

Before the subsequent tremors, Zahirul said he and his other friends, including another Malaysian student, Wan Isyraf Wan Haziq, 19, who is also at the Embassy now, managed to go back to their respective rooms to secure some essentials.

While Zahirul is a second-year student at the university, Wan Isyraf has just enrolled in Turkish Language studies at the university just four months ago. Zahirul said although the hostel is still standing tall, the earthquake has left cracks in the building and it has been deemed unsafe.

"On the first day, we stayed at a mosque nearby, which eventually got crowded. On the second day, we came to know that the university was also providing accommodation. So, we went back there,” he said.

By then, the Malaysian Embassy managed to contact Zahirul and Wan Isyraf and brought them to the embassy in Ankara.

"We are really grateful for the assistance provided by the Malaysian and Indonesian Embassy, here,” he said, adding the main focus was to leave Gaziantep and go to safer ground.

"Even now, the tremor is still felt in Gaziantep every three hours. On the first day, we felt tremors every hour. "Currently, we are on our semester break. It ends on Feb 20. If it is safe to return to university, I will go back, but if the university opts to go virtual I probably choose to return to Malaysia and attend virtual lessons from home,” he said.

Malaysian Ambassador to Turkiye Sazali Mustafa Kamal said the embassy stands ready to assist Malaysians affected by the earthquake.

Malaysia is among the first country to respond to the disaster that hit Turkiye, with an announcement of a US$1 million contribution to help victims of the earthquake and had since deployed the second Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART) to the country.

On the deployment of the second SMART team, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said it was done due to the effectiveness of the first SMART team, which is under the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA). The team flew to Türkiye last Monday - BERNAMA