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Inverness community bid to help victims after earthquake disaster

By Ian Duncan

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Mustafa Calisir. Picture: James Mackenzie
Mustafa Calisir. Picture: James Mackenzie

A Turkish restaurateur in Inverness has told of how he lost four of his friends in this week’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Mustafa Calisir, who runs Aspendos Restaurant in Queensgate, is originally from Malataya in Turkey, two hours away from the epicentre of the quake which struck on Monday.

He said around 350 buildings had been destroyed in his home city – some of them up to nine storeys tall.

“I am absolutely so sad and I feel so bad,” he said.

“With one of them they found him and took a picture and sent it to me but I couldn’t look at it – he was my childhood friend. For three days I’ve been trying to keep in touch with people but I can’t call them because the phone doesn’t really work. There’s no real connection.”

The death toll from the magnitude 7.8 main quake which struck shortly after 1am local time and a 7.5 aftershock nine hours later was confirmed yesterday at almost 16,000.

Mr Calisir is determined to do all he can to help and has launched his own appeal for donations of clothes as well as whatever money people can spare.

Sulayman “Zaza” Kaya is another native of Turkey who has made his home in the Highlands.

He runs Icon Traditional Turkish Barbers in Church Street in Inverness and said his own family home in Turkey had been destroyed in the quake.

Originally from Adana, in the south of the country, he said a number of his relatives still lived in the house.

Thankfully they are all safe though they are having to live in the garden at the moment as the building itself is unsafe.

and added: “They are all okay but they can’t go in the house – they are living in the garden because the house is unsafe.

“We are heartbroken for the people over there and, as a Turkish community in the UK, we are collecting money and sending the money over there for our people,” he said.

Delighted at the “unbelievable” response to disaster appeals already he said he was finding it difficult to simply sit and watch as relief efforts continue.

“It is really bad and I can’t sleep at night thinking about it,” he said.

“We feel for them deep in our hearts.”

Ferit Gur, who runs the Highland Whisky Shop in the city’s Castle Street, is also originally from Turkey and said that as a community they were “devastated” by the disaster.

He also urged people to donate what they could to help.

The effects were felt for more than 100 miles and almost 16,000 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria are known to have died – however the World Health Organization has estimated the final death toll could be as high as 20,000.

Highland trauma surgeon Andy Kent is currently based in Ukraine as part of a team working with medical charity UK-Med there but told the Courier he would travel to do whatever he could to help if asked to go to Turkey.

“For sure – it’s exactly what I joined UK-Med for,” he said.

However, when asked he said he would travel to Turkey if he was asked he said he would go without hesitation. He said: “At present I’m in Poltava delivering mass casualty management training (MCM) but I – and, I suspect, you – know where I’d rather be."

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