A 13-year-old's life transformed by an earthquake: From Hatay to London
The earthquakes centered in Kahramanmaraş, which claimed thousands of lives, also irrevocably changed the lives of many, including 13-year-old Mehmet, whose world shifted from the ruins of Hatay to England's capital, London. While providing psychological support to his father, Mehmet is also adapting to his new prosthetic legs.
The earthquakes, marking their first anniversary, affected not only Kahramanmaraş but also Hatay, Osmaniye, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Adana, Malatya, and Elazığ. Official figures report 53,537 deaths and 107,213 injuries due to the quake.
Mehmet Koç, a 13-year-old resident of Hatay, was among the 107,213 injured when their five-story building collapsed. The earthquake also took the lives of his 14-year-old brother and mother.
Hasan, Mehmet's 58-year-old father living in London, flew to Turkey immediately after hearing the news and began searching for his family beneath the rubble in Hatay.
It took rescue teams 76 days to extract Mehmet from the debris. Upon hospitalization, doctors determined that both of his legs needed to be amputated.
"I WAS SCREAMING FOR HELP..."
Mehmet, who doctors said could have died if brought in an hour later, shared his ordeal from the hospital.
"I was screaming for help. Our neighbor Hayrettin told me when to shout, and I did. When they rescued me, I didn't feel or think anything; I was confused. I asked for water as soon as I was saved. My family was waiting outside, and I saw them immediately after being pulled from the debris."
HOLDING ON TO LIFE IN LONDON
Mehmet spent two months in the hospital before he was well enough to fly. His journey to London began when his father, Hasan, found Mehmet's crumpled British passport in the debris after his treatment in Turkey.
Hasan, who first moved to England in the 1990s and, like Mehmet, holds British citizenship, said, "We're trying to adjust to life."
Hasan mentioned that Mehmet, now attending school and improving, is his biggest support. "Mehmet tells me, 'Dad, we can't bring them back or change what happened. Let's forget everything and move on.' He's very brave and a great support to me," Hasan said.
Mehmet has been fitted with prosthetic legs and is practicing walking and exercising in the hospital to gain strength.
LIFE IN LONDON
Mehmet's favorite English team is Manchester City, and Norwegian striker Erling Haaland is his special hero.
Besides his love for football, Mehmet enjoys playing computer games and continues his medical needs at home with the help of his teacher, Simon Joseph, arranged by the Hackney Borough.
Upon starting school in London, his teacher Joseph remarked, "Teaching Mehmet and getting to know him has been wonderful."
Describing Mehmet, Joseph said, "His warm and friendly nature has become more evident over the weeks. He has a great sense of humor, especially when trying out new English words."
Mehmet keeps in touch with his school friends and talks regularly with relatives in Turkey, including his grandmother.