King Charles meets volunteers sending aid to earthquake-devastated areas of Turkey

King Charles meets volunteers sending aid to earthquake-devastated areas of Turkey

Follow the latest news on the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

King Charles III met volunteers from the UK’s Turkish community sending aid to their homeland on Tuesday and expressed how “deeply sorry” he was following the devastating earthquake.

The monarch visited a west London charity to see for himself the efforts of residents working to help those left homeless after the natural disaster stuck south-east Turkey and Syria last week, killing tens of thousands of people.

He also formally launched Syria’s House, a temporary Syrian community tent in Trafalgar Square in central London, where he met the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, among others.

Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, Umit Yalcin, joined the head of state when he visited the makeshift depot organised by the West London Turkish Volunteers based in Hounslow.

The diplomat said of the king: “He said he was deeply sorry, deeply sad, and he will pray for Turkey, for Syria and the people under that devastating earthquake.”

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake and a later a 7.5-magnitude quake, which both struck on February 6, have claimed the lives of more than 35,000 people in south-eastern Turkey and Syria, with the death toll expect to rise as buildings are cleared.

The natural disaster reduced thousands of homes and buildings to rubble as people slept.

With the efforts of the authorities and NGOs now turning towards recovery and relief, the British public have helped the Disasters Emergency Committee Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal raise more than £74 million in a few days — including donations from the king and queen consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales.

When the king said: “I hear you’re getting so many supplies and people have been helping,” volunteer Aysenur Gurkan, 21, replied: “The support has been quite immense.”

She added: “Not just the Turkish community — we’ve had support from everybody. People are connecting.”

About 500 local Turkish families use the centre but many are from a region in central Turkey and only a few were directly affected by earthquake. However, on the day the tremor struck, a frantic effort began to sort through donations that poured in from the public — including from Ukrainian and Afghan communities.

The king watched volunteers sorting through clothes and sleeping bags and was told about the fund-raising efforts of the West London Turkish Volunteers, an organisation which supports other communities in the area, to fund a new community and social centre.

The king later toured Syria’s House, where Syrians will be able to pay their respects to lost relatives and organise vigils at the centre.

He spoke to Salah Al Asmar, a Syrian architect based in the UK who lost his parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew in the earthquake in Antakya, Turkey.

“For seven days, my family were under the rubble. There was no rescue team. No one could support them in this moment. I haven’t been able to sleep for days,” Mr Al Asmar said afterwards.

“The king was showing his support and was saying, ‘I can’t imagine how hard it has been for you’. He said, ‘it is terrible’. I saw that he was emotionally affected,” said Yazan Douedari, who was invited to the event through friends.

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