UK aid worker helping earthquake relief effort ‘never seen such destruction’

A British aid worker said he has never experienced “this level of suffering, death and destruction” following the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

Atiqur Rahman, who works as head of development for the Global Relief Trust, told the PA news agency he was in Syria when the 7.8 magnitude quake hit and said he thought a “high-speed train was going past the building”.

After hearing the situation in the Turkish city of Antakya was worse, his team drove there to find his colleagues based in the area had all lost their homes – with one fatally crushed by the rubble.

Mr Rahman has urged people to donate something to the relief effort “for the sake of humanity”.

“Our team in Antakya… every single one of them lost their homes,” he said.

“Unfortunately our HR officer in Turkey was crushed to death.

“We were actually thinking his whole family passed away but we found two of his sons today.

“But we are still looking for their mother and one of the daughters.”

Mr Rahman, from Stoke-on-Trent, has since flown back to the UK as he lost everything in the earthquake.

“The building got destroyed. I’ve been wearing wet clothes for the past four days, so I’ve got them on,” he said.

Describing what the situation in Turkey was like when he arrived, Mr Rahman said: “Compared to everything that I’ve seen, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything at this level of suffering, death and destruction.

Atiqur Rahman
British aid worker Atiqur Rahman said he has never seen such ‘destruction’ (Atiqur Rahman/PA)

“The scary thing is it took 90 seconds.

“I’ve experienced earthquakes before but nothing like this.

“I’ve seen so much suffering – children, elderly people, ordinary people, who woke up or didn’t wake up because they were crushed to death.”

Speaking about his initial experience of the earthquake while he was in Syria, Mr Rahman said: “When I woke up it was like a high-speed train that was going past the building.

“Then I thought, because I was inside Syria, is there an air strike, and immediately waited for the sound of an explosion.

“It wasn’t until probably about 10 to 15 seconds into it that I realised this was an earthquake.”

Urging people to donate money, Mr Rahman said: “No-one is saying donate thousands of pounds but donate something – be involved for the sake of humanity.

“These are ordinary people – some of these people have fled their homes, from bombings and war and conflict and that little bit of tranquillity they had has now been ruined even further.

“They were in the process of trying to rebuild their lives and now it’s just been taken away from them all over again.”

Mr Rahman said he did not tell his mother he was in Syria when the earthquake hit so she did not have a “panic attack”.

Asked if he would go back to help the relief effort again, Mr Rahman added: “It’s something that, as emotionally drained as you are, you can’t walk away from.

“This is part of my job, part of my life and we’ll continue to be there for as long as needed.”