The football world has been rocked by reports former Chelsea and Newcastle forward Christian Atsu is believed to be trapped under rubble from deadly earthquakes in Turkey. According to measurements from the US Geological Survey, Turkey was hit with a second earthquake measuring more than magnitude-7, leaving thousands dead, injured, trapped or missing.
The tremor, measuring 7.5 magnitude was picked up about four kilometres outside Ekinozu, in central Turkey. The European Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) measured the quake at 7.7 magnitude, with its epicentre about 40 miles north north-east of Kahramanmaras, a depth of 2km.
It comes after an earthquake hit close to Gaziantep, southeast Turkey – about 100 miles south of Ekinozu – as well as neighbouring Syria, killing more than 1,500 people. Thousands more were injured when the earthquake struck, collapsing apartment blocks and heaping more destruction on Syrian cities already devastated by years of war.
There have been grave concerns for Atsu after reports from Hatayspor spokesman Mustafa Özat that he was trapped under rubble from a building that was destroyed in the region. The Guardian later reported that the Ghana football icon had been rescued from the rubble and was transported to hospital, however, it later retracted those reports.
Turkish media reports that the Ghana international, who plays for Turkish club Hatayspor, and club director Taner Savut, were believed to be in the building when it collapsed. Neither were able to be contacted in the immediate aftermath.
At least two other Hatayspor players had to be pulled out of rubble but were now safe, Turkish officials added. The 31-year-old Atsu only last year joined Hatayspor, which is based in the southern city of Antakya, after a spell playing in Saudi Arabia. News of Atsu's disappearance has left the football world rocked, with fans praying for the Ghana star and the countless others affected by the disaster.
This is getting serious. Prayers for Atsu
— Sir Cappuccino (@MichaelKorletey) February 6, 2023
Christian Atsu scored a stoppage time goal for Hatayspor last night. He made the whole region happy. 😢
Today, he's under the rubble and the region has been devastated by the earthquake. 🇹🇷🇬🇭
Life is cruel. Our thoughts are with everyone effected. 💔 pic.twitter.com/4JMfaS5dcn
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) February 6, 2023
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) February 6, 2023
Lord, protect our Hero Christian Atsu who has good heart to survive with full body features intact. The whole of Ghana need him alive and in whole to continue with his good works pic.twitter.com/75nDT0q6Je
— Nii Bee Tackie (@Nniitac) February 6, 2023
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 6, 2023
Casualties expected to rise after deadly quakes in Turkey
The quake, which hit in the early darkness of a winter morning, was the worst to hit Turkey this century. It was also felt in Cyprus and Lebanon. The World Health Organisation (WHO) expects a significant jump in the death toll following the two major earthquakes and aftershocks.
"I think we can expect the death toll to increase significantly," Rick Brennan, the WHO's regional emergency director for the Eastern Mediterranean, told Reuters. "There's been a lot of building collapses and it will increase more significantly around the epicentre of the earthquake."
Turkey has said that around 1,500 people have died in the earthquake, with thousands more injured. The quake was centered in Turkey’s southeastern province of Kahramanmaras, and was felt as far away as Cairo in Egypt.
Hours later, a second 7.5 magnitude jolt, which was possibly an aftershock, struck more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) away from the epicenter of the earthquake and caused more destruction. Turkish authorities said more than 3,700 buildings were destroyed. The death toll is expected to rise.
Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo offered condolences to the people of Turkey on his official Facebook account and added: “We pray that our fellow Ghanaian, Christian Atsu, is found safe and sound."
Ibrahim Kwarteng, a friend of Atsu, said he had tried calling Atsu but couldn't reach him. “We are only praying that he will be found," Kwarteng said.
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