February 26. 2024. 5:51

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Cork school group avoids Turkey earthquake due to flight stopover

A Cork school principal says it is a “miracle” a group of students and staff avoided arriving into the Turkish disaster zone where an earthquake struck on Monday.

Speaking from Istanbul, Aaron Wolfe, head of Coláiste Éamann Rís in Cork city, said the school trip was part of an Erasmus project, and they were due to be in Malatya — one of the worst affected cities in south-east Turkey — on Sunday night.

“We were meant to go there last night and we decided our flight from Dublin to Istanbul, we were cutting it too fine to make the flight to Malatya, so we decided to stay one night in Istanbul and thank God we did, because if we didn’t we would have been there,” he told RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about. We’re three hours ahead in this country so we heard news about this very early, five o’clock Irish time and we were just in shock to see that the school we were going to, the staff and the students that we were visiting, who we had built those relationships with, had been devastated.

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“One of the students sent us a text saying: ‘My town has literally disappeared’. It’s horrendous, it really is.”

Earlier, the school issued a message on social media to reassure families that the group were “all fine”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost their lives and homes,” the school said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said Ireland “stands ready” to support local and international relief efforts following the earthquakes in Turkey and northwest Syria which have killed more than 1,400 people.

The first earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck central Turkey and northwest Syria early on Monday. The second earthquake of magnitude 7.6 struck southeastern Turkey’s Kahramanmaras region, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority said.

Mr Martin said he was “shocked and saddened” to learn of the disaster.

“Our thoughts go to all those who lost loved ones, the injured, and first responders,” he said on Monday. “Ireland stands ready to support local and international relief efforts.”

[ Turkey earthquake: Second major quake hits as death toll in Turkey and Syria rises ]

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said it is monitoring the situation closely.

“Any Irish citizens that require consular assistance can contact the Embassy of Ireland in Ankara on 00 90 312 4591000,” a spokesman said.

The European Union on Monday said ten search and rescue teams have been mobilised.

“Ten urban search and rescue teams have been quickly mobilised from Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania to support the first responders on the ground,” EU commissioners Josep Borrell and Janez Lenarcic said in a statement.

“Italy and Hungary have offered their rescue teams to Türkiye as well.”