It was 04:17 local time when Erdem, asleep at his home in Gaziantep, southern Turkey, was shaken from his sleep by one of Turkey’s largest earthquakes ever.
“I’ve never felt anything like it in the 40 years I’ve been alive,” he said. “We were shaken very strongly at least three times, like a baby in a crib.”
People went to their cars to flee the damaged buildings. “I can imagine that not a single person in Gaziantep is in their homes right now,” Erdem said.
More than 210 miles west, in Adana, Nilüfer Aslan was convinced that he and his family would die if the earthquake shook their fifth-floor apartment.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. We swung back and forth for almost a minute,” he said.
“[I said to my family] ‘There is an earthquake, at least let’s die together in the same place’… It was the only thing that came to my mind.”
When the earthquake stopped, Aslan fled outside – “I couldn’t take anything with me, I’m outside in slippers” – only to find that four buildings had collapsed around his.
In Diyarbakir300 miles east, people rushed into the streets to help rescuers.
“There was screaming everywhere,” a 30-year-old man told Reuters. “I started to pull stones away with my hands. We got the wounded out with friends, but the screaming didn’t stop. When the [rescue] teams came.”
Elsewhere in the city, Muhittin Orakci said seven members of their family were buried under the rubble.
“My sister and her three children are there,” he told AFP. “And also her husband, her father-in-law, and her mother-in-law.”
In Syria, a large number of buildings collapsed Aleppo, about two hours from the epicenter. Health director Ziad Hage Taha said injured people “arrived in waves” after the disaster.
Özgül Konakçı, a 25-year-old who lives in Malatyasaid the aftershocks — and freezing weather — only made things worse.
“It’s very cold and it’s snowing right now,” she told BBC Turkish. “Everyone is out on the street, people don’t know what to do. Just before our eyes, the windows of a building exploded from aftershocks.”
Ismail Al Abdullah – a rescuer from the Syrian humanitarian group White Helmets – has worked in Sarmada to save survivors, a town near the border with Turkey.
“Many buildings in several cities and towns in northwestern Syria have collapsed and been 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 area. We need everyone’s help to save our people.”