Lucky escape | 

Irish students and teachers on school trip to Turkey ‘safe’ following earthquake

The group from Coláiste Éamon Rís was on an education trip to a partner school in Malayta in Turkey when the 7.8 magnitude quake hit

Damaged vehicles sit parked in front of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, early Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. A powerful quake has knocked down multiple buildings in southeast Turkey and Syria and many casualties are feared. (Depo Photos via AP)© AP


A group of Irish students and teachers had a miraculous escape after avoiding being in a Turkish town levelled by the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake by only a matter of hours.

A Cork school has now moved to reassure parents that a group of students and staff members on an educational trip to Turkey are safe and well despite the massive earthquake that has rocked the Middle East.

The group from Coláiste Éamon Rís was on an education trip to a partner school in Malayta in Turkey when the 7.8 magnitude quake hit.

Fortunately for the Irish group, they were on a stopover in the Turkish city of Istanbul and had not commenced their journey to Malayta.

The group later posted on social media that their thoughts and prayers are with their partner school in Malayta which was severely hit by the quake.

It is expected that the Irish group will now return home as soon as flights can be organised.

"Our staff and students in Turkey are all fine," the Cork school posted.

"The earthquake has struck their destination of Malayta but, thankfully, they had stopped in Istanbul and had not reached their (partner) school yet."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have lost their lives and homes."

"(There has been) very sad news from our partner school in Malayta - a text from their students (reads) 'This place has officially disappeared - many people have died. The number is increasing constantly.' Our students were due to go there today - thankfully they are all safe in Istanbul."

The Cork school - which was founded in 1828 - has a number of partner schools overseas.

Principal of Coláiste Éamon Rís Aaron Wolfe reassured everyone that all their students and staff were safe in Turkey.

The group remain in Istanbul which is over 12 hours drive and almost 1200km from Malayta which was virtually levelled by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake.

The Cork group were having a rest day in Istanbul and were only planning to begin the marathon trek across Anatolia to Malayta today - so were safely out of the quake zone.

Mr Wolfe spoke from Istanbul to reassure everyone about the status of the Cork contingent.

"All our students and staff are safe here in Istanbul," he said.

"We are over 1,000km away from it (the quake epicentre). So everyone is safe."

"Our students have now been contacting their (Turkish) students and the picture coming through is that the town (of Malayta) has virtually disappeared," he said.

"There are lots of disappeared, lots of fatalities and lots of injured. It is really, really bad there."

The Cork school now has to decide what to do next as travel onward to Malayta is impossible.

It is expected they will spend several days in Istanbul having secured a hotel and with their original flight home not scheduled for a week.

"But there are bigger problems than ours - and your heart goes out to these Turkish families when you see the scale of the devastation," he said.

"It is quite shocking to see the scale of the damage from this earthquake."

Malayta is one of the oldest cities in human history, dating back to the era of the Hittites. It is the capital of Malayta province in central Anatolia.

Hundreds died in the massive overnight quake which had its epicentre at Gaziantep in central Turkey but which was so powerful it was felt as far away as the island of Cyprus.

It is feared that more than 500 people had died in Turkey and Syria - with the death toll expected to soar higher.

Such was the force of the quake that hundreds of buildings - including homes and apartment blocks - simply collapsed from the violent tremors.

The Vice-President of Turkey, Fuat Oktay, confirmed that 284 people have already been confirmed to have been killed.

A further 2,323 people were injured with the death toll expected to rise higher.

Rescue and recovery teams are now racing to the worst hit areas amid fears of further aftershocks.

International rescue teams are also on standby to fly to Turkey and Syria.

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