"It's unfathomable," said Canada men's national team defender Sam Adekugbe of the Kahramanmaras earthquake that's destroyed much of Antakya, Turkey (where he plays club soccer with Hatayspor) and devastated large portions of Turkey and Syria.
Adekugbe, a 2013 homegrown signing of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, joined CanMNT captain Atiba Hutchinson in Istanbul, where the latter plays club soccer for Beşiktaş, for an interview on Canada's OneSoccer television network to speak about the disaster and call for donations. The Turkish Süper Lig is currently on pause following the tragedy.
Hutchinson was relatively safe from the earthquake in Istanbul, roughly 600 miles from the epicenter, but Adekugbe felt the bulk of the force in Antakya and is still waiting for updates on his Hatayspor teammate Christian Atsu (yet to be found) and much of the club's staff. Major outlets have reported that the death toll has passed 20,000.
"The sporting director of the team is still missing. The situation around Christian Atsu, one of my teammates, who was at my house that night, is still kind of unknown," said Adekugbe, who had hosted some of his teammates at his home after a Sunday night match just hours before the earthquake hit in the middle of the night Monday morning.
"And then it's not just that. It's also people kind of who work around the team," continued Adekugbe, who's played in Europe since 2016. "People who work in the kitchen, people who work – I mean one of my kit men, it just turned up that he died. One of the ladies who works in the kitchen, she lost her daughters and her mother. One of my other kit men, his wife, she needs urgent medical care, but because also the hospital is destroyed, she doesn't have it. And if she doesn't get it, she needs to get her arm amputated."
Though the possessions in Adekugbe's house were "turned upside-down," the gravity of the situation didn't fully land until he opened the door to discover a split road and people outside yelling. That reality only got worse when he left to drive to the practice facility and meet up with teammates, some of whom had lost their homes.
"I drove into the city and that's where I kind of really saw the devastating effects of what happened," Adekugbe said. "It's about a 20-minute drive from my house to the training ground. And then it just felt like a movie. You're seeing collapsed buildings, fires, people yelling, people crying. You're seeing just people digging through rubble, just broken pieces of houses, just things you never really expect. And as I started driving closer towards the training ground – it's more towards the center of the city – you just started seeing even worse.
"Roads split, bridges broken, 12-story like high rise is just completely collapsed. You're seeing just families, like looking for loved ones, parents looking for their kids, kids looking for their parents."
Adekugbe would end up assisting in the search for teammates throughout the next day, encountering further devastation in the process.
"You're like looking through rubble, trying to find your teammates," the 28-year-old said. "You're trying to yell for them in darkened spaces of apartments that used to be shining, and it's just something you never find yourself doing. And people coming back with broken bones and people are still missing to this day. And, I don't know, it's just something you can't really explain."
Adekugbe and Hatayspor have since been evacuated to Istanbul, though it's unclear what's next: "Not sure what the plan is. I have three suitcases and my dog."
Hutchinson and Adekugbe have partnered with the Canadian Red Cross to raise funds in support of those affected by the disaster. They urge listeners to donate there or to Ahbap, a Turkish organization.
"I think it's really important for the people that are in need of that," said Hutchinson, who's played for Beşiktaş since 2013 and is Canada's all-time appearances leader (101).
"There's a lot of people that are still under the rubble. I think around 150,000 is the last number that we heard. So people are just really in bad conditions right now, and it's really cold here, so just making it through the day and in the night, it's extremely difficult."