Retail assistant thanks public for love and donations following Turkey quake

Retail Assistant Thanks Public For Love And Donations Following Turkey Quake
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By Danielle Desouza, PA

A retail assistant has thanked the public for their love and donations following the deaths of her husband’s parents and sister in the 7.8 earthquake which hit Turkey.

Rachel Kuccuk, who lives in County Kerry, set up a GoFundMe alongside her 21-year-old daughter Seniz, who is a student at University College Cork, to offer support for and highlight the plight faced by those in her husband’s hometown of Elbistan, in the province of Kahramanmaras in Turkey.


“We have been going over there for the past 23 years, Elbistan was also our home too, those people were our people,” the 41-year-old retail assistant told the PA news agency.

“Those people appearing on news stations – I know their faces, I know their families and it is absolutely heartbreaking that these people are now gone and we’re seeing so many left on the ground who have nothing and food and water only went to the region on Saturday night.

“No one has ever heard of Elbistan before this horrendous tragedy and me and my daughter wanted to highlight the kind people and that this natural disaster has caused people to lose their lives.”

So far, over 28,000 people across regions in Syria and Turkey have been killed by the earthquakes.


Man wearing a white chef's jacket and looking at the camera
Ergin Kuccuk travelled to Elbistan in Turjey to try and find and save his parents and sister (Rachel Kuccuk/Seniz Kuccuk/PA)

While the fundraising page was being set up, Mrs Kuccuk’s chef husband Ergin, 47, travelled to Elbistan from Tralee, County Kerry, on Tuesday morning in a bid to find and rescue his sister Hanim and parents Ali and Done Kuccuk from the rubble.

“On Monday, we found out my husband’s mum was missing and within 10 minutes, we got another call from a family member that his dad was also now missing and that they were last seen going into the house before it had fallen on top of them,” she said.


“The next morning, my husband left for Elibistan.

“He was a man on a mission, he was going straight home, regardless of the fact that there was a disaster over there.

“On Thursday, he found them both, we think their location was the sitting room, just one metre apart from each other, deceased.”

Two people looking at the camera
Ali and Done Kuccuk, Ergin’s parents (Rachel Kuccuk/Seniz Kuccuk/PA)

Mrs Kuccuk added that her husband’s parents were buried in a grave in their family village of Malap.

However, the consequences of the earthquake on those in Elbistan continued to be felt by the family.

“My husband went to search for his sister and the apartment building she was in had collapsed,” she said.


“But we had heard that people in the area could hear noises and breathing, so we had hope and that day was her birthday and we said God might give us a miracle.

“When they took her and her husband (Ali) out, they were found in the bedroom cuddling each other, their arms were wrapped around each other and they were buried still cuddling together on Saturday.”

Woman looking at the camera
Ergin Kuccuk’s sister Hanim, who died in the earthquake (Rachel Kuccuk/Seniz Kuccuk/PA)

She added that her husband mentioned that “everything is flat, there is nothing left there, everything we had known and seen of Elbistan has completely gone”.

“There is no more Elbistan.

“There is death everywhere, the smell of death is horrendous.”

She reflected on her memories of Elbistan, referring to the area as “the most peaceful place on Earth”.

“The people are so warm and friendly, you could literally be walking down the road and you would be pulled into a house and given tea and food,” she added.

Despite the hardship faced by the family, Mrs Kuccuk said that she hopes the GoFundMe will allow them to provide key items including warm clothes and medicine to those in Elbistan.

“We need warm clothes sent to these people.

“What they were wearing that morning when they got up to do their daily routine is all that they have left, jumpers, warm jackets, hats, scarves, gloves,” she said.

“We need baby clothes, baby formulas, nappies and we need medicines as well.”

She added that funds will also be going towards search and rescue teams to help those in Elbistan.

Over €16,000 has been raised so far, with Mrs Kuccuk adding that the family is “absolutely overwhelmed” by the support of the people of County Kerry.

“We are ever so grateful to each and every person that has donated or even come to or called my workplace,” she said.


“There are customers who come in who are flooding me with love and donations and support, I am completely overwhelmed by it and the people of County Kerry are so warm and loving.”

Seniz Kuccuk added: “My dad is the strongest man I have ever known and he would do absolutely anything for his family.

“I want to make sure my dad knows about the support he has behind him.

“We cannot thank the generosity of the people around us enough… we will never forget it and when my dad returns home, whenever that is, he will be so grateful that people are supporting where he’s come from because he has done so much for everyone here.”

More information about the fundraiser can be found here:

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