Cliffe aid drivers witness tragic aftermath of Turkish earthquake

March 2, 2023

A husband-and-wife lorry-driving team have paid tribute to the ‘amazing people’ affected by the horrific earthquakes in Turkey.

Darren Whitton and his wife Louise drove a 44-tonne articulated lorry packed with hundreds of boxes of clothes, food, baby supplies and toiletries more than 3,000 miles to the locality of Baris in Southern Turkey. In a stark reminder that the death toll now stands at 47,000, the couple’s load also included white muslin cloths for the Turkish people to wrap their dead in.

The couple, both 55, from Cliffe, drove through several countries including France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria. They work for Anthony Higgins Transport in Pontefract and were asked by their boss if they’d be willing to make the trip to deliver aid on behalf of the charity Demircilik Solidarity And Cultural Centre in London. Darren said: “Baris is one of those places which not many people have heard of or been to but was massively hit by the earthquakes. “It’s absolutely horrendous there. We saw hundreds of buildings that had collapsed, and there were still bodies in there because there are no diggers, people were shifting rubble with their hands. Blocks of flats are now the size of a house. “It’s not one of the major cities, and so there aren’t enough resources. I’ve been driving 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. “They’re still getting bodies out. In the first week or so they were trying to find anyone that was alive. They need as much help as they can get to clear the rubble. They won’t even have all the rubble cleared within a year, there’s that much of it.” Darren said a lot of children have been sent to the bigger cities that haven’t been affected to stay in accommodation, or to stay with families. Sadly, some people have lost multiple members of their families.

Darren added: “There were two old ladies bringing us tea and food, one was in her 70s, she’s lost everyone - her children and her grandchildren. She was out of the building at the time, and it collapsed and her whole family are gone. “Babies have been born in the rubble, that’s not uncommon. “It makes you look hard at what you’ve got, nice houses, nice cars, being able to have a wash or put the kettle on. You look at people over here and just think ‘we’ve got so much’. “Food is a massive thing, there’s still a shortage. People have no washing facilities. I used to be a mortician a few years ago, and I’m quite a tough guy. But when you see it in person, you see the devastation caused to people’s lives. There’s also the weather conditions. In Baris, it can get up to -14 degrees and they are sleeping in tents.” Despite the ill-fortune that has befallen them, Darren said the Turkish people couldn’t do enough for him and Louise. He added: “These people are amazing. They’ve just gone through the worst thing ever and all they wanted to do was help us. “We’d like to go back when we can to visit the people we have met and see how they are getting on. We just wanted people to know that the people here still need help and donations.”


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