Sunday, 19 May 2024
Red balloons pay last tribute to children killed in Turkey quake

Red balloons pay last tribute to children killed in Turkey quake

Dozens of red balloons speckle the rubble of one of the dozens of thousands of destroyed buildings in Türkiye's quake-hit southern region. They are the final tribute to children killed by the earthquake that devastated Antakya, according to Ogun Sever Okur, who is behind the memorial.


The effect is striking, the bright balloons contrasting starkly with the dusty grey of the rubble and twisted metal that once made up a nine-floor building.


Against the monochrome backdrop, many possessions attest to the young lives lost in the earthquake.


"Three children died here. They were 18 months, four years, and six years old," said Ogun Sever Okur.


Okur, who grows roses and is a photographer, volunteered as a rescuer in the days after the earthquake in his hometown of Adana before heading to Antakya 200 kilometers (125 miles) away.


"I started here and then moved on to the building behind. This area struck me. I couldn't sleep for several nights because we couldn't rescue the children from here," he said.


Eight days after the quake, Okur began tying balloons to the ruins in the city of 400,000 people, now a ghost town filled by diggers and lorries removing the rubble.


More than 43,000 people were killed in Turkey in the earthquake though the figures on how many of them were children are still unknown.


Red balloons typically "represent joy, love," he said. But in Antakya, after the earthquake, "this is the first time a balloon has made us cry."