KING Charles met volunteers from the UK’s Turkish community sending aid to their homeland, and expressed how “deeply sorry” he was following the devastating earthquake.
The monarch visited a west London charity to see for himself the efforts of residents working to help those left homeless after the natural disaster stuck south-east Turkey and Syria last week, killing tens of thousands of people.
Umit Yalcin, Turkey’s ambassador to the UK, joined the head of state when he visited the makeshift depot organised by the West London Turkish Volunteers based in Hounslow.
The diplomat said about the King: “He said he was deeply sorry, deeply sad, and he will pray for Turkey, for Syria and the people under that devastating earthquake.”
During his visit, the King sipped Turkish tea – after stirring in a sugar lump – and briefly visited a nearby kebab takeaway and joked if the chef had any special ingredients to attract the public.”
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake and a later a 7.5 quake, which both struck on February 6, have claimed the lives of more than 35,000 people in south-eastern Turkey and Syria, with the death toll expect to rise as buildings are finally cleared.
The natural disaster reduced thousands of homes and buildings to rubble as people slept, with scenes of the rescue effort reported by news channels across the globe.
With the efforts of the authorities and NGOs now turning towards recovery and relief, the British public have helped the Disasters Emergency Committee Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal raise more than £74 million in a few days – including donations from the King and Queen Consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales.
In a courtyard next to the charity’s home behind the Kebab takeaway, the King was shown the latest shipments of pallets, piled head-high with boxes filled with tents, blankets, winter clothes and toiletries, soon to follow more than 200 others already sent to Turkey.
He chatted to volunteers gathered for the royal visit and he asked them where the shipments were headed. When he was told Istanbul, the King asked about Turkey, saying: “It’s always been prone earthquakes?” and being told it was on a fault line.
When the King said: “I hear you’re getting so many supplies and people have been helping,” volunteer Aysenur Gurkan, 21, replied: “The support has been quite immense.”
She added: “Not just the Turkish community – we’ve had support from everybody. People are connecting.”
Around 500 local Turkish families use the centre but many are from a region in central Turkey and only a few were directly affected by earthquake. However, on the day the tremor struck, a frantic effort began to sort through donations that poured The King watched volunteers sorting through clothes and sleeping bags and was told about the fundraising efforts of the West London Turkish Volunteers, an organisation which supports other communities in the area, to fund a new community and social centre.
Before leaving, Charles visited the kebab restaurant and takeaway co-owned by one of the senior members of the charity. When he asked what meats were cooking, he was told lamb and chicken doner kebabs.
He pointed at the press covering the event and said with a laugh: “They probably will have a kebab.”