Southend teacher in Turkey describes 'horrific scenes' following deadly earthquake

Destruction - The earthquake has claimed more than 4,000 lives with that figure expected to rise in the coming days <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Destruction - The earthquake has claimed more than 4,000 lives with that figure expected to rise in the coming days (Image: PA)

A SOUTHEND geography teacher stuck in Turkey following a deadly earthquake says 20 years of teaching about the seismic events could not prepare him for the horror of the reality of one.

Russell Peagram was visiting his wife Ezra’s relatives in Gaziantep when the quake hit.

The geography teacher from Southend was jolted awake shortly after 4am as the fourth-storey room he was in began to shake violently.


“You are in a deep sleep at 4.20am, you don’t quite realise it’s true, it’s like a nightmare and then you realise you are in serious trouble,” he told BBC Radio Essex.

“Things are coming off the walls. The whole building is just waving from side to side and you just think ‘that’s it, this is it, we are going here’.

“You are on the fourth floor and the only thing you can do is have a go at getting out.

He added: “I just grabbed my wife’s hand and ran as fast as we could and upon getting outside the situation wasn’t good outside either.

“It was snowing, ice cold, and people had left their homes, including ourselves, without shoes or anything to keep warm.”

Mr Peagram says 20 years of teaching about earthquakes could not have prepared him for the reality of one.

“I’ve been a geography teacher for over 20 years, and I probably taught earthquakes every year about the s waves and the p waves, and I’ve always had enormous empathy for people who have been caught up in an earthquake.

“Nothing in this world can prepare you for being caught up in a 7.7 magnitude earthquake. It was truly horrifying.”

The death toll has surged past 4,000 as rescuers in Turkey and Syria worked overnight to find more survivors of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the region early on Monday.

The quake, which was centred in Turkey’s south-eastern province of Kahramanmaras, was felt as far away as Cairo.

The region sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes. Some 18,000 were killed in similarly powerful earthquakes that hit north-west Turkey in 1999.

The US Geological Survey measured Monday’s quake at 7.8, with a depth of 11 miles. Hours later, a 7.5 magnitude temblor, likely triggered by the first, struck more than 60 miles away.