It was 04:17 local time when Erdem, who was sleeping at his home in Gaziantep, southern Turkey, was shaken by one of the biggest earthquakes in Turkey’s history.
“I’ve never felt anything like this in the 40 years I’ve lived,” he said. “They shook us at least three times with great force, like a baby in a cradle.”
People got into their cars to escape the damaged buildings. “I imagine not a single person in Gaziantep is in their homes now,” Erdem said.
More than 130 miles to the west, in adana, Nilüfer Aslan was convinced that he and his family would die when the earthquake struck their fifth-floor apartment.
“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. We swayed for almost a minute,” he said.
“[I said to my family] ‘There’s an earthquake, at least let’s die together in the same place’… It was the only thing that crossed my mind.”
When the quake stopped, Aslan ran outside – “I couldn’t take anything with me, I’m standing outside in my slippers” – and found that four buildings surrounding his had collapsed.
In diyarbakir300 miles to the east, people poured into the streets to help rescuers.
“There was screaming everywhere,” a 30-year-old man told Reuters. “I began to remove stones with my hands. We took out the wounded with friends, but the screams did not stop. Then the [rescue] The teams have arrived.
Elsewhere in the city, Muhittin Orakci said seven members of his family were buried under rubble.
“My sister and her three children are there,” he told AFP. “And also her husband, her mother-in-law and her mother-in-law.”
In Syria, a large number of buildings collapsed in Aleppo, about two hours drive from the epicenter. Health director Ziad Hage Taha said the injured were “arriving in waves” after the disaster.
Özgül Konakçı, a 25-year-old who lives in Malatyahe said aftershocks and freezing weather made matters worse.
“It’s very cold and snowing at the moment,” he told BBC Turkish. “Everyone is on the streets, people are confused about what to do. Right before our eyes, the windows of a building exploded due to the aftershocks.”
Ismail Al Abdullah, a rescue worker from the Syrian humanitarian group the White Helmets, has been working in sarmada to rescue survivors, a town near the border with Turkey.
“Many buildings in different cities and towns in northwestern Syria collapsed, destroyed by this earthquake,” he said.
“We need help. We need the international community to do something, to help us, to support us. Northwestern Syria is now a disaster zone. We need everyone’s help to save our people.”