Turkish fiance grieves for bride that will never be

  • World
  • Thursday, 09 Feb 2023

Yunus Emre Kaya sits next to the body of his fiancee Gulcin in a sports hall where relatives are identifying their loved ones in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, February 8, 2023. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah

KAHRAMANMARAS, Turkey (Reuters) - Yunus Emre Kaya and his fiancee Gulcin were planning a life together before Monday's devastating earthquake shattered their dreams.

Two days later, Kaya said a final farewell to his fiancee, unzipping a black bodybag to identify her body in a sports hall where casualties from the disaster had been laid out. He gave her a last embrace.

They were due to marry in April.

"I was planning to clothe her with a wedding dress but now I will clothe her with a funeral shroud," he said, weeping on the floor of the sports hall in Kahramanmaras, near the epicentre of the quake which killed more than 9,000 people in southern Turkey.

The 24-year-old textile worker, who met Gulcin after he completed military service three years ago when she was just 16, said her death had left him numb.

"Imagine somebody tied your hands and feet and you cannot get up. There is no food, no water, no air," he said. "This is how I am. I am like the walking dead."

Kaya was asleep at home when the quake struck, hitting his house "like an explosion" shortly after 4 am on Monday. He grabbed his mother and took her out into the street, before running for 10 minutes straight to Gulcin's house.

He found her home in ruins. There were people in the rubble and screams from those trapped underneath. He later learned that both Gulcin and her sister had died.

The couple had originally planned to marry last September, but pushed the date back because her father was abroad.

"She was saying: 'Emre, I have a feeling we won't be able to do the wedding this time either' and she was feeling sad," he said. "It seems like she felt what would happen."

His only hope, Kaya said, was that neither Gulcin nor her sister felt any suffering.

"And I just kiss them on the forehead. I opened (the body bag) and kissed her face. There is nothing else that smells this good. There is no other smell as beautiful as this."

(Reporting by Issam Abdallah in Kahramanmaras, Turkey and Yesim Dikmen in Istanbul; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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